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Castrol to open datacentre immersion cooling test facility at Berkshire HQ

BP-owned lubricant brand has unveiled the next phase in its work to accelerate adoption of immersion cooling technologies in datacentres

Castrol is to open a test and development facility for immersion cooling datacentre technologies at its global headquarters in Pangbourne, Berkshire.

The BP-owned lubricant brand announced a partnership with immersion cooling system manufacturer Submer in June 2022 as part of its push to accelerate the adoption of this form of cooling in datacentre environments, and the opening of the test facility marks the start of a new phase in their collaboration.

To this point, the site will be set up to test out new cooling fluids and server equipment using Submer’s edge computing-focused MicroPod and its large-scale SmartPod  immersion cooling units.

Funding for the project is coming from BP, who set out plans in August 2022 to invest up to £50m to setup a new electric vehicle battery test centre and analytical laboratory at Castrol’s HQ in Pangbourne, which employs around 400 people.

“The facilities will be used to develop and test methods to capture and reuse the heat from datacentre operations to further increase operational efficiency,” the two companies said, in a joint statement.

Castrol said its decision to get involved in the development of new immersion cooling tools and techniques is fuelled by its commitment to helping the datacentre industry reduce its environmental footprint, as this form of cooling is credited with helping operators cut the amount of water their sites consume.

The use of liquid cooling in datacentres is far from a novel concept, but the use cases remain niche and are largely limited to exascale and high-performance computing (HPC) use cases. The technology is favoured in these types of environments because it can help to regulate the temperature of these energy-intensive hardware setups in a more efficient and targeted way than traditional air-cooling methods.

Immersion cooling is a form of liquid cooling that typically involves submerging the datacentre servers in a thermally conductive dielectric coolant and any heat generated by the equipment is removed through the use of cool heat exchangers.

“Immersion cooled datacentres could bring huge gains in performance and big reductions in energy wasted in cooling,” said Rebecca Yates, technology vice president of advanced mobility and industrial products, at BP.

“Together, Submer and Castrol aim to deliver sustainable solutions as demand for computer power continues to surge. This investment in proven Submer systems is a key step towards joint development with the goal of enhancing performance and improving data centre sustainability even further through integrated energy solutions.”

Daniel Pope, co-founder and CEO of Submer, added: “Castrol’s investment in Submer’s systems is the next step in our joint mission to accelerate the adoption of immersion cooling technology within the IT industry. The combined expertise of Submer and Castrol aims to provide evidence of how the technology can enhance performance, efficiency and deliver environmental benefits.”

 

Read more about datacentre liquid cooling

As demand for increasingly dense racks and compute-heavy workloads increases within datacentres, could this lead to a wholesale shift in preference from air-to-liquid-based cooling systems? If so, at what cost to the environment?

With machine learning fuelling demand for graphics processing units in the datacentre, Schneider Electric CTO claims this will require a drastic rethink of how operators manage their sites, paving the way for liquid cooling to hit mainstream adoption.

Read more on Datacentre cooling infrastructure

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