Supercomputers: They're not just for stumping chess Grand Masters.
Earlier this week, Spanish oil major Repsol YPF (NYSE: REP ) announced that it's placing a supercomputer into service in the firm's work in the Gulf of Mexico and offshore Brazil. The goal of the project, dubbed Kaleidoscope, is to speed up advanced seismic imaging in order to better visualize oil accumulations lying deep beneath the ocean floor.
Believe it or not, the Cell Broadband Engine Architecture powering this puppy was originally designed by IBM (NYSE: IBM ) , Sony (NYSE: SNE ) , and Toshiba to power the PlayStation video game console. A cell-based system now helps power Los Alamos National Laboratory's Roadrunner, the first supercomputer to break the petaflop barrier (1,000 trillion operations per second).
From pioneer Zilkha Energy's turn to high-powered computing in the '90s, on through to CGGVeritas' (NYSE: CGV ) advances in Wide Azimuth imaging and Exxon Mobil's (NYSE: XOM ) recent work in electromagnetic mapping, petroleum exploration has become a very high-tech game. To those with the fastest and most powerful toys go the spoils. Repsol may very well tap into some previously hidden oil.
Who else may stand to benefit from this supercomputing strategy? Well, Repsol's drilling partners include Petrobras (NYSE: PBR ) in Brazil and Chevron (NYSE: CVX ) in the Gulf of Mexico. These firms may benefit from Repsol's sudden ability to see beneath the sub-salt.
Then, of course, there's all the rest of us. The president-elect's vision for our energy security is naturally much broader than simply finding more oil at home, but the latter is undeniably a bridge to a less hydrocarbon-hijacked future. So, best of luck to Repsol and its shiny new supercomputer.