The Super Computing Science Consortium, 2004


Formed in 1999 and supported by the U.S. Department of Energy, the Super Computing Science Consortium is a regional partnership of research and educational institutions in Pennsylvania and West Virginia. (SC)2 provides intellectual leadership and advanced computing and communications resources to solve problems in energy and the environment and to stimulate regional high-technology development. Since the spring of 2000, a high-speed network — the first fiber-optic service to Morgantown, West Virginia — has linked the National Energy Technology Laboratory (NETL) campuses in Morgantown and Pittsburgh with PSC, facilitating NETL collaborations.

Photo of Lynn
                  Layman, PSC, and Bob Romanowsky, NETL.

(SC)2 co-chairs: Lynn Layman, PSC, and Bob Romanowsky, NETL. “All (SC)2 partners have particular areas of expertise,” says Layman, “and through collaborations within (SC)2 and with other regional organizations, we strengthen the research capabilities of all of the partners and the region as a whole.”

PSC supplies training and computational resources along with visualization and consulting support to (SC)2 partners. The training includes workshops in parallel programming and, during the past year, staff presentations as part of a graduate course in cluster computing at West Virginia University (WVU). The high-speed link allowed students to do homework on PSC systems.

Researchers at NETL and WVU have actively used this link to tap PSC computational resources. Since the founding of (SC)2, more than 40 (SC)2 researchers have used PSC systems for a range of projects, using more than a million hours of computing time, half a million within the past year. Along with the black-liquor project described here (facing page), this work includes:

Frances VanScoy of WVU, chair of the (SC)2 Visualization Working Group, welcomes participants and describes her research.

Photo if (SC)2 Visualization Workshop
The (SC)2 Visualization Workshop

On March 22, 2004, the (SC)2 Visualization Working Group held a workshop for Consortium partners in Pennsylvania and West Virginia interested in scientific visualization and virtual reality. With nearly 30 participants — from Consortium members Duquesne University, Pennsylvania State University, WVU, Institute for Scientific Research, NASA IV&V, PSC and NETL — the workshop provided a forum for (SC)2 partners to learn about each other’s capabilities and research.

New Partner, More Bandwidth

In February 2004, the NASA Independent Verification & Validation Facility (NASA IV & V) in Fairmont, West Virginia became part of the (SC)2 partnership, expanding the existing (SC)2 network through a five-year contract with Qwest Communications. The contract increased the existing OC-3 network to OC-12 capacity and extended the network to Fairmont. The enhanced infrastructure provides for upgrading the network to OC-48 capability.

“The new architecture allows for expanded bandwidth capability to all parties at a significantly reduced cost,” said Ned Keeler, director of NASA IV&V, which took the lead in the network upgrade. “Additional users may be added to the network as the north central West Virginia research community continues its growth.”

“This is one more example of our continuing effort to attract leading technology providers to our region,” said Dr. John Weete, WVU vice president for research. “Our goals in contributing to the enhanced network are to stimulate economic development for our entire area and increase our research capacity.”

Gas from Black Liquor

The pulp and paper industry is among the nation’s most energy-intensive manufacturing industries. Over the past 20 years, this industry dramatically increased its energy self-sufficiency by re-using black liquor, the residue from the process that extracts fiber from wood for papermaking. Existing technology burns the black liquor in boilers, primarily to recover the pulping chemicals. Gasification of the black liquor could substantially improve the efficiency of this process.

The U.S. Department of Energy has collaborated with Georgia Pacific (GP) to demonstrate full-scale black-liquor gasification. GP is replacing its existing boilers with a fluidized-bed system, which can combust and gasify black liquor — a mixture rich in carbon — both to recover chemicals and to generate steam and energy. In addition to improving energy efficiency, the system is expected to eliminate the danger of boiler explosions and dramatically reduce toxic air emissions.


To help GP with start-up of this system, NETL has used LeMieux, PSC’s terascale system, to simulate the gasification process with MFIX (Multiphase Flow with Interphase eXchanges), software developed at NETL. MFIX can predict hydrodynamic behavior, track gas and solid species, and temperature distribution throughout the bed. “With LeMieux, we’re able to run multiple jobs simultaneously,” says NETL consulting engineer Chris Guenther, “to vary the particle size and gas flow rates. These simulations generate very large datasets, which PSC accommodates with their FAR storage system. The high-speed fiber link between PSC and NETL allows us to bring these datasets back to NETL in minutes.”

Four tube bundles — oriented perpendicular to one another — supply heat to the bed. Fluidization gas enters through the bottom and black liquor is injected into the lower region. The black liquor coats an inert bed material which combusts and gasifies as it travels upward, forming bubbles that flow through and around the tube bundles. The transient behavior of these bubbles determines the mix of gas versus solids in the flow through the bed, with the goal of keeping the bed well mixed and thermally homogeneous. To model such a complex system, it is critical to predict bubble behavior (red).