As oil prices continue to skyrocket, the quest for new sources for energy to help moderate prices is becoming more urgent. But the cost of exploration and drilling deep wells can reach hundreds of millions of dollars, and there’s often only one chance to do it successfully.



To minimize the risks, most oil explorations now depend on 3D seismic imaging technology from companies such as SeismicCity, located in Houston, Texas, for a detailed look at potential drilling sites. Still, imaging complex geological areas is a monumental task, involving terabytes of complex data.

As depth imaging technology developer SeismicCity introduced successive generations of faster and more accurate code, they ran into a thorny problem: Each upgrade to its proprietary algorithms brought an 10 fold increase in the computational intensity. Before long, SeismicCity’s existing hardware configuration became impractical, as the new algorithms would require an upgrade to an equivalent of 20,000 CPUs setup.


As a foundation for its future needs, SeismicCity turned to GPU Computing by running NVIDIA® CUDA™ on an NVIDIA® Tesla™ S870 1U server system. This massively parallel computing architecture produces a 20X performance increase over the previous CPU configuration. Performance was accelerated an additional 3.5X with NVIDIA’s next-generation Tesla processors based on CUDA technology. Going forward, the scalability of GPUs will make the transition to new algorithms faster and allow the hardware platform to be expanded as need arises.

“Part of SeismicCity’s uniqueness is our algorithms,” says Claude Pignol, V.P. Technology at Seismic City. “Moving from one generation of code to the next can mean much higher accuracy images directly leading to more efficient exploration. NVIDIA’s GPU Computing technology has enabled us to move to the next-generation of our algorithms faster and more economically.”


Potentially new oil fields are being discovered because of the dramatically increased speed and accuracy of SeismicCity’s 3D depth imaging technology. Drillers can proceed much more confidently in areas that were previously obscured by unclear seismic data, leading to vitally needed increases in domestic oil production.

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