Aramco and Saudi Telecom Company roll out Dammam 7 supercomputer

The device features among the world’s top 10 most powerful machines

(Front row, third from left) Amin H Nasser, Aramco's president and chief executive, with officials during the inauguration of Dammam 7. Courtesy Aramco
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Saudi Aramco, the world’s biggest oil company, and Saudi Telecom Company, the biggest telecommunications operator in the kingdom by market value, have launched a new supercomputer Dammam 7 that features among the world’s top 10 most powerful machines.

Named after the first oil well discovered in Saudi Arabia in 1938, Dammam 7 is based at Dhahran Techno Valley, a wholly-owned subsidiary of the King Fahd University of Petroleum and Minerals. The machine was developed in partnership with Solutions, a subsidiary of STC and Cray, a Hewlett Packard Enterprise unit.

It has 55.4 petaflops of peak computing power, allowing it to process and image the world’s largest geophysical datasets, Aramco said in a statement on Tuesday.

It presents new opportunities in both exploration and development, significantly enhancing Aramco's decision-making capabilities when exploring new fields.

“Dammam 7 is another step in our plan to invest in the right technology that drives production efficiency and resilience … it will help us with breakthroughs as part of our long term 'Discovery and Recovery' strategy in our upstream business,” Aramco president and chief executive Amin Nasser said.

“This technology that processes complex data faster will enable new discoveries and enhanced recoveries … crucial to both ensuring the availability of adequate supply to meet the demand for energy and to cut costs while boosting productivity,” Mr Nasser said.

Advanced imaging and deep-learning algorithms will allow the supercomputer to run very detailed 3D earth models, improving Aramco’s ability to discover and recover oil and gas while reducing exploration and development risks.

“The inauguration of the supercomputer data centre in Aramco will open up new horizons in exploration, which will have a significant impact on data digitisation and quality,” Nasser S Al-Nasser, STC’s chief executive, said

“These are in line with the digital transformation plans of the desired national outlook … we are proud to have worked with locals to establish Dammam 7 centre,” he added.

Supercomputers are far more powerful than general purpose computers and are typically used to address the most demanding problems in the world. These include developing models to discover new medicine, fight a pandemic, explore oil and gas reserves, simulate nuclear weapon explosions, forecast weather and research climates.

US technology companies such as Microsoft, IBM and Google are competing to develop supercomputer technology.

In May, Microsoft announced it had built one of the top five publicly disclosed supercomputers. In March, IBM revealed a partnership with the White House to offer supercomputing power to help researchers working to fight the spread of the coronavirus pandemic.

Last year, Group 42, an Abu Dhabi-based artificial intelligence and cloud computing company, offered Artemis - the world’s 26th most powerful supercomputer - to researchers looking to contain the spread of the coronavirus.