Working Data Center

The evolution of computing power

Eni's digitalization journey, from the first gas discovery to the net zero goal.

by Nicoletta Boldrini
10 July 2023
6 min read
by Nicoletta Boldrini
10 July 2023
6 min read

A major event that marked a historic turning point in gas exploration and production in Italy.
Seismic data processing and high performance super-computing simulations innovate the search for energy sources and optimize renewable systems.
Research and experimentation for the acceleration of the decarbonization pathway.
What do these three activities have in common? Technology!
It all starts in the 1940s, in Italy, during World War II…


  • May 1944, the then AGIP, after drilling the Caviaga 1 well near Lodi, found a series of gas-mineralized sand intercepts. A series of tests ascertained the discovery of a large gas deposit. It was the first one with substantial reserves to be discovered in Western Europe.
  • Beginning in the early 1970s, Eni started using the computers of the time to process seismic data.
  • Since October 2013, it is the Green Data Centre (GDC) in Ferrera Erbognone (in the province of Pavia, in Italy) that hosts all the seismic simulation processing systems centered on High Performance Computing, with which Eni exploration creates detailed three-dimensional perspectives of the subsurface (Seismic Imaging). The GDC hosts HPC5, one the most powerful industrial supercomputers in the world.
  • Today, Eni uses High Performance Computing and other advanced technologies in support of its decarbonization goals.

The historical turning point

In the field of hydrocarbon exploration in Italy, 1940 marks a milestone because it is the year in which the then AGIP (Azienda Generale Italiana Petroli, the Italian government oil company founded in 1926) began to use so-called “seismic reflection” as a method of investigating the subsurface to detect with high precision the characteristics and geometry of the rock formations beneath the Earth's surface.
In May 1944, following preliminary research, AGIP discovered a vast natural gas field in Caviaga, near Lodi (in Lombardy). This discovery marked the beginning of a new era for the Italian energy industry.

The most advanced technologies for preliminary studies

From the early 1970s, Eni began harnessing the power of computers to improve all its energy exploration and production activities, including the processes related to preliminary study investigations. Among these technologies, special mention should be made of HPC. Eni today can guarantee an almost unimaginable quantity of calculations performance (over 70 million billion calculations per second) in parallel (it contains thousands of "computing nodes" working together to complete one or more tasks, on huge amounts of data).

HPC can also guarantee best results in terms of energy efficiency (Eni’s architecural choice requires much less electricity in respect of other more conventional solutions).

Green Data Center
Green Data Center

Eni’s Green Data Center

Is since October 2013 that the Green Data Centre houses all the seismic simulation processing systems (which exploit High Performance Computing) from which Eni’s exploration reconstructs the composition of rock layers in the subsurface in three dimensions (Seismic Imaging). HPC is also used to improve subsequent drilling and production activities to maximize efficiency and minimize environmental impact, but also for so-called "reservoir simulation", in other words, to reproduce and analyze the evolution of the reservoir during the production phase to optimize hydrocarbon extraction and identify any risks associated with operations.

HPC has a role in all of Eni's major discoveries of the last 10 years: Zohr, in the Mediterranean Sea, Ngoma, in Angola, Coral South in Mozambique but to name but a few examples).

High Performance Computing for Decarbonization

Today, and even more in the near future, HPC is a great ally for Eni, not only for Seismic Imaging but also in the field of renewable energy and represents the technological pivot through which the company's decarbonization strategy and path can be accelerated.

Eni's strategy to achieve carbon neutrality by 2050 leverages technology, and HPC will play an increasingly decisive role:

  • Wind energy: HPC used to model and simulate air flows and weather conditions to optimize the positioning and efficiency of wind turbines.
  • Solar energy: HPC can be used to simulate and optimize the design of photovoltaic cells, as well as to model the effect of various weather conditions on solar energy production.
  • Energy from biomass and biogas: HPC helps optimize the production and transformation of biomass into biogas (for example with the modelling and simulation of the chemical and biological processes involved).
  • Fusion Energy: in the application of magnetic confinement (a key technology for achieving controlled plasma in magnetic fusion) HPC can be used to model and simulate the complex physical processes that take place inside a fusion device.
  • Energy network and storage: HPC can help manage and balance energy supply and demand, within power grids by optimizing the mix between intermittent renewables and the carbon footprint of fossil fuels as efficiently as possible.
  • Carbon capture and storage: HPC can be used to model and simulate capture, transport, and storage processes of CO2 (CCS) which are key technologies for reducing carbon emissions associated with industrial processes and energy production. HPC is also critical for monitoring storage effectiveness because deep CO2 confinement can be monitored from the surface sing the same data acquisition and subsequent processing techniques using HPC systems normally applied for subsurface exploration.

The author: Nicoletta Boldrini

Independent Journalist, popularizer of emerging technologies, author & keynote speaker | Double soul: tech & humanist | Futurist & Futures Studies Facilitator | I analyze impacts of emerging techs on alternative futures.