Ultra-Dense Computer Chips to Bring Greater Power to Digital Oilfield Operations

by Karen Boman, Senior Editor

Last month, IBM reported it had made working versions of ultra-dense computer chips, with roughly four times the capacity of today’s most power chips.

The announcement of the chips with seven-nanometer transistors extends Moore’s Law by using new nanomaterials, including nano-carbon tubes, that allow a dramatic increase in processing power while reducing size and heat dissipation, said Steve Papermaster, founder of Austin-based nanotechnology company Nano Global, in an interview with Rigzone. Papermaster spent eight years in the White House as co-chair of the President’s Council of Advisors on Science and Technology.

Though not yet available, this new class of lightweight, powerful nanoscale microprocessors could power Internet of Things technology for the upstream, midstream and downstream oil and gas industry. This new generation of processors will make it more cost-effective and possible for perpetual monitoring from the cloud of oil and gas assets for temperature, volume, motion, velocity, leakage and spills.

Given the current economics of the oil and gas industry and $50/bbl oil – give or take $15/bbl – and the gross margin available, the industry will be highly impacted by incremental changes that nanotechnology can make, from the amount of water used in hydraulic fracturing. Nanotechnology coatings that prevent corrosion can extend the life and usefulness of pipes and equipment.

Nanotechnology that reduces the impact of corrosion and bacteria can reduce operating costs by 20 to 40 percent, while nanotechnology water solutions can cut water usage by 30 to 40 percent, said Papermaster.

“When you’re in a tight economic environment, operating costs and materials are coming into focus like they haven’t in a long time due to low oil prices.”

Even the strength of materials, such as nanodiamond and nanosilver tips for horizontal drilling rigs, is being examined.

“A big part of the advancement of the hydraulic fracturing revolution is due to these materials,” said Papermaster. “Nobody realizes how profound nanotechnology has been in driving the change.”

This class of chip will allow for much more sophisticated monitoring of all aspects of exploration and production, making more data available while requiring less labor. The data also will allow for more sophisticated use of data algorithms, which will in turn allow for even more sophisticated improvement in efficient operations for drilling and fracking and for load balancing for logistics for everything from refining to petrochemicals.

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