Big Oil harnesses power of data analysis to ensure survival

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Eni's Sannazzaro oil refinery, 60km south-west of Milan, is an industrial island surrounded by agriculture. But as well as the jumble of pipes, furnaces and storage tanks that characterise such sites, there is a less familiar scene. Rising from a football pitch-sized parcel of land on the edge of the refinery are six futuristic buildings -- grey, rectangular and windowless -- without any obvious association to the production of petroleum and diesel taking place nearby. These buildings are home to one of the world's most powerful computers with capacity of 18.6 petaflops, a measure of computing speed. That is three times quicker than Facebook's fastest and twice that of Nasa's, according to the Top 500 global ranking of supercomputers.