Petrobras begins assembling yet another supercomputer

Bnamericas Published: Thursday, January 19, 2023
Petrobras begins assembling yet another supercomputer

Brazil's Petrobras has started assembling yet another supercomputer, which will be its fifth.

Dubbed Gaia, the high-capacity processing (HPC) machine is being supplied by Dell, a Petrobras spokesperson told BNamericas, as part of a 76mn-real (US$14.55mn) tender won last year by the US hardware company.

The supercomputer is expected to start operating before the end of this quarter at the Petrobras development and innovation research center (Cenpes) in Rio de Janeiro.

According to the oil company, Gaia will have a processing capacity of 7.7 petaflops, equivalent to 1.5mn cell phones or 40,000 laptops, and an estimated power consumption of 574kW. 

That should increase Petrobras' total computer processing capacity from 63 petaflops to around 70 petaflops, according to BNamericas' estimates.

In comparison, the company's previous supercomputer Pégaso, which Petrobras claims to be its biggest and the fifth most powerful in the global oil and gas industry, has a processing capacity of 21 petaflops and power consumption of 1.5MW. 


Gaia is Petrobras' first supercomputer that is not assembled and deployed by Atos.

The French IT group was the provider for the company’s four existing HPC machines – including Pégaso, which started working at full capacity last December. In order of activation, the others are Atlas, Dragão and Fênix.

Dell started delivering Gaia to Petrobras in December.

Raymundo Peixoto, Dell's regional VP of datacenter solutions, told BNamericas in October that the company was focused on securing new – and more robust – HPC contracts with large industries, such as in the oil and gas and utilities sectors, while doubling down on mid-sized prospecting companies in the retail and financial sectors.

He said at the occasion that Dell Technologies had “a few dozen” projects related to supercomputing under development in Brazil, Mexico and Chile, in the latter two with applications intended mainly for scientific uses.


The goal with Gaia is to improve seismic image processing tools to obtain ultra high-definition reproductions of sub-surface rock layers, Petrobras said in a statement.

“Gaia will be dedicated to the development of new imaging algorithms for Petrobras, in different scenarios of technological maturity, with a special focus on Least Squares and elastic FWI [full-waveform inversion] techniques, in addition to applications using machine learning,” Petrobras' digital transformation director Paulo Palaia said.

Least Squares imaging uses mathematical methods to build and improve images, revealing details that are not visible in traditional imaging. The full-waveform inversion (FWI) is a seismic imaging method to recover subsurface media parameters with high resolution.

Petrobras said that it will be able to develop more accurate models than the existing ones about rock characteristics, such as hardness and the presence of liquids such as water, gas and oil.

With this, the company hopes to obtain more accurate results, and reduce times and costs in E&P activities. Each well in the pre-salt layer can cost between US$70mn and US$100mn from drilling to completion.

“The precision generated by the geophysical study of the models developed with these new technologies increases the probability of success when choosing an area and predicting the behavior of the rock during the drilling of a well,” said Petrobras' head of exploration and production, Fernando Borges. 

Gaia's processing capabilities will be applied in pre-salt fields, which are responsible for 74% of the company's production, as well as in new exploration frontiers, particularly the Equatorial Margin to the north-northeast of Brazil, Petrobras said.

The date for the beginning of Petrobras' drilling campaign in the Equatorial Margin, however, has not yet been set, a spokesperson for the Brazilian oil company previously told BNamericas.

Petrobras originally planned to begin exploration in the offshore Foz do Amazonas basin in late 2022, but the campaign is still subject to authorization from environmental regulator Ibama.

The investment in Gaia is part of a US$2.1bn, five-year capex plan for R&D and innovation recently announced by Petrobras. That amount is 24% higher than the US$1.6bn earmarked for the previous capex plan.

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