Geoscientists and industry experts from Europe, North America and Asia gathered recently in Istanbul to take part in the American Association of Petroleum Geologists (AAPG) International Conference and Exhibition 2014.
Sa’id A. Al Hajri, manager of Saudi Aramco’s Exploration and Technical Services Department, as well as chairman of the AAPG-Middle East Chapter, joined other members of the AAPG in delivering a speech at the conference’s opening ceremony.
Saudi Aramco was well represented at the conference. Ibraheem A. Assa’adan, executive director of Exploration, was a keynote speaker and took part in a panel session titled “Technical Innovation and Collaboration Keys to Affordable Energy.”
“We at Saudi Aramco have just recently launched a major research and development campaign through our Exploration and Petroleum Engineering Center’s Advanced Research Center,” Assa’adan said. “We shared with the participants Saudi Aramco’s efforts and strategies in expanding research and development. We own a host of research and development centers, most notably, the center in Houston (which was launched earlier this month), centers in Detroit and Boston, and three offices in Europe – in the U.K., the Netherlands, and Paris – in addition to our center in Beijing.”
Saudi Aramco specialists presented a number of technical papers and the company was also represented on the technical committee of the event by AbdulKader M. Afifi, Ahmad Al-Hakami, Emad Al-Janoubi, Muhammad A. Huzam and Mahdi Abu Ali.
The conference saw a high level presence from global petroleum and services companies and academia. Randi Martinsen, AAPG chairman, lauded the passing of 100 years since the AAPG was established. Its global members now number about 38,000. The next conference will be held in Melbourne, Australia, in 2015.
In 1973, the Oakland Athletics defeated the New York Mets to capture the World Series, the Miami Dolphins capped their undefeated 1972 season with a January victory in the Super Bowl, Secretariat raced to the Triple Crown, a new video arcade game called Pong exploded on the scene and Duane Huetter decided it was time to see the world. Anticipating lots of exciting engineering work awaiting him in Saudi Arabia, he accepted a job offer from Aramco and moved with wife Mary and son Frederick to Dhahran.
For the next 13-plus years, Duane put his project engineering experience and background to work as an engineer/facilities planner for Aramco.
Like so many of his fellow Aramcon annuitants, Duane remembers fondly the many close friendships he developed living in the Kingdom. Among a multitude of adventures, he recalls especially camping with his family at Aramco Beach in their 5’ x 7’ tent.
Now retired and living in Tulsa, Oklahoma, Duane has become an avid Lionel model train hobbyist.
Duane and Mary attended the recent annuitants’ reunion in Asheville and loved the Omni Grove Park Inn venue with its great location and views. After three days of renewing old friendships, they returned home to Oklahoma feeling a deep appreciation for the persons who organized and staffed the reunion.
Read: Uzbekistan – Part One
Malika and Laurie
Next on our journey was a homestay in Sentyab village somewhere between Samarkand and Bukhara. Here we got to observe life in a small out of the way village where the natives spoke Tajik, an Iranian Farsi language not related to the Uzbek Turkic language. To my ears—I couldn’t hear the difference. Before the Uzbeks of Turkic origin occupied what is now Uzbekistan, the Persians, the Arabs, and Islam held sway. Arabic is the language of religion, but Farsi (Persian) was the language of poetry and culture and was spoken in this region before the advent of Islam. Here I met Malika, an 8 year old with a thirst for learning English. As I cooled my feet in the family pool made by damming up the water from a local stream, Malika sidled up to me. I greeted her and asked her name. She showed off her English hesitantly at first and then after singing the ABC song with a twist together, she became my friend. Malika squeezed out of me as much English as she could absorb in a short encounter. We counted, named the things around us like flowers, leaves, stones, bees, shoes, hair, eyes, and asked and answered simple questions as we hiked up the hill through the village from her home and our home for the night.
The flocks of sheep, some with long hair and others with fat tails (not so different from the sheep of Arabia), were being driven down the mountains by shepherds on donkeys sometimes assisted by dogs. Some of the sheep were prized for their wool (Karakul) and the others with the fat tails produced the meat that is a staple of Uzbekistan. Fred and I loved the kababs, shashlik, manti, laghman, plov and all the ways the Uzbeks thought of to cook the lamb. Small caravans of donkeys carried hay down the mountain and others carried riders. We tourists made way and marveled at the traffic one small mountain road supported. Continuing up the mountain we saw stone houses with nut and fruit trees in the yards as well as vegetable gardens. At the end of the road we walked up a small stream past some petroglyphs left by prehistoric man and then to a place that overlooked an abandoned village, one that was unsustainable because it had no water.
The next day we were off to Bukhara whose roller coaster history saw it hosting a mosque for everyday of the year and more than 100 madrassahs at the turn of the last century. Before the Arabs arrived, Zoroastrian fire worshippers, Manicheanism and Nestorian Christianity among others inhabited Bukhara and were primarily under the rule of the Persians. Bukhara did not give in easily to Arab rule, but with the Samanid Dynasty in the late ninth century came a golden age which brought about a revival of Iranian language and culture after the period of Arab domination. Bukhara became the intellectual center of the Islamic world and therefore, at that time, of the world itself. Muhammad al-Bukhari, a prominent Islamic scholar who gathered the authentic sayings (hadiths) of the Prophet Muhammad, was born in Bukhara. The Uzbeks, nomadic tribesmen, were united by Abdullah Khan in the early 1500’s and the Shaybanid dynasty commenced as the Khanate of Bukhara. It was a pawn in the ‘Great Game’ where Russia and Britain tried to gain influence in the region. Russia prevailed.
Kalon Minaret, Bukhara
A UNESCO World Heritage Site, Bukhara’s most prominent landmark, the Kalon Minaret (dating back to 1127 and rising to over 48 meters), is the greatest remnant of truly old Bukhara. In its time it stood out as a beacon of Bukhara’s importance within the Islamic world, but it was also utilized as an early warning system to signal the approach of enemies or as a lighthouse to trade caravans along the Silk Road. In later years it became known as the Tower of Death, when criminals were led to the top, tied in a sack and pushed to their death all in front of a gathered crowd below. Along with the Kalon Minaret goes the Kalon Mosque. It is a huge Jumah (Friday) mosque built to hold 10,000-12,000 or the male population of Bukhara at the time.
Façade of the Ismail Samani Mausoleum, Bukhara
Bukhara is full of wonderful sights at every turn. We enjoyed green tea at a tea house and sipped it at the Internet café. On our last evening we were privy to a small family ensemble complete with Doira (drum), Nay (flute) and Rubab that sounds much like the ‘Ud. Although the music had a Middle Eastern cadence, the result was uniquely Uzbek.
The Ark Fortress cannot be missed for its sheer size. It has existed in some form since the founding of the city, but its present appearance began to take shape in the 16th Century. The compound accommodated the emir, his family and staff and the government. “3,000 inhabitants complete with a palace, harem, throne room, reception hall, office block, treasury, mosque, gold mint, dungeon and slave quarters”. It has been lavishly restored giving the visitor a real look at the beauty and grandeur that was Bukhara.
Khiva is a walled city
A long hot 8 hour drive brought us to Khiva, a break in the heat and Eid al Fitr. Khiva lies in the Khorezm oasis of the Kara-Kum Desert. The capital of the Khivan Khanate from 1592, it is the best preserved city on the old Silk Road. As with other stops on the Silk Road, peace was never long lived and Khiva was no exception. Legend has it that Shem, son of Noah, mapped out the city walls and written history shows that Khiva was a den of piracy, theft and the slave trade. Still there are wonderful sights to behold from this checkered past.
Girls playing from our window in the Khievak Hotel
Khiva is a walled city with the walls and gates renovated and remarkably intact. Inside the walls is a dizzying array of madrassahs, minarets and mosques. The Kukhna Ark (Old Fortress) still stands with most of its interior dedicated to museums, yet the tile work is awesome. Out of our window from the Khievak Hotel (best pizza in the world) we had a view of the Islam Khodja Madrassah Minaret and a number of kiosks selling mostly trinkets for tourists. The minaret is magnificent and we could usually see our way home from an excursion by siting it. Our room in the hotel had a perfect view of the square under the minaret. From there we were able to take many pictures unobserved. Each morning as the kiosks were erected, we watched the small neighborhood come alive. I took a number of pictures of girls at play with a ball. Jumah (Friday) Mosque was the most intriguing with its 213 black elm pillars. It was huge and cool and could certainly hold all the Khivans.
Eid al Fitr in Khiva
Because of the heat, we spent extra time in Khiva and were able to mix with the Khivan population out shopping and celebrating on Eid al Fitr. Before heading out to a small hilltop yurt encampment that would be our last night on the road, we made our way to the local bazaar outside the walled city. As we passed and talked with families celebrating, new clothes were evident and everyone was in a jovial mood. One little boy with a Messi football shirt told me that Germania had won the World Cup and then we recited as many soccer teams as we could. He out did me.
We arrived at a Yurt camp near Ayaz Qala in the late afternoon. The camp held about a dozen Yurts including one larger than the others which served as the dining hall. We were divided into groups of four to a Yurt and deposited our “stuff” accordingly. Each Yurt was circular, about twelve feet in diameter, with a vertical wall a little less than six feet high. The wall was made of light wood poles or sticks (each about one inch in diameter) crisscrossed forming a lattice frame with the intersections of the sticks tied with leather cords. When dis-assembled the lattice is collapsed for transport without untying the individual poles. The roof frame was made up of slightly larger poles tied to the top of the circular wall then angled towards the center of the structure forming the roof. These poles were bent about 60 degrees slightly above head height to facilitate attachment to the vertical wall and tied together near the center of the structure. The roof had a slope of about thirty degrees. The frame was covered with heavy felt, walls and roof. The end result was a tent like structure that was large, very solid, and to some extent portable – usually moved four times a year when the animal herds shifted grazing land. The covering could be removed from the frame and the frame collapsed into sections (without having to untie all of the poles). The floor was covered with carpet and our beds were pallet-mattresses on the floor.
Our camp was equipped with an electric generator and solar panels providing a light bulb in each Yurt, lighting in the dining Yurt, and light for the WC building set slightly apart from the Yurts. It was of cinder block construction and housed two toilets, two shower stalls and two outside sinks. All were fed water from a roof top tank.
An ancient walled fortress (built in the 4th to 3rd century BC) dominated the area from a hill about mile distant. Our group scaled the hill and inspected this long abandoned fort. It had massive mud walls that were initially about twenty feet high and enclosed a Centerarge square area several hundred yards on each side. The walls were not intact, but whole in some areas with the outline clear in the other areas. From the fort walls we could see for miles in all directions. This is a pretty flat steppe region. From the walls we viewed two other fortified locations at the site. One was an older walled area on the flat land that was simpler to begin with and much more weathered. The other was the ruins of the local ruler Ayaz Khan’s residence. This was also a significant structure (viewed from a distance of about a half a mile) which was located on a hill somewhat lower than the fort.
The area inhabitants generally did not live in the fort, but would store their harvest in the facility and could take refuge there from nomadic raiders that would appear on occasion.
Bread is revered and lovingly presented
We returned to the Yurt camp about sundown in time to sample fresh baked bread being produced in a clay oven. The staff at the camp prepared a wonderful meal for us. We sat on rugs on the floor (I comfortably had a small pillow beneath my seat being a bit inflexible to manage sitting cross-legged on the floor). This was our group’s final dinner together and was quite a feast. After our dinner we retired to sleeping quarters (we offered earplugs to our Yurt mates to facilitate sleeping).
“The Bull” by Vladimir Lysenko is the signature piece in the Igor Savitsky Museum
Our last day on the road took us to the Igor Savitsky Museum in Nukus, an unlikely find in the autonomous region of Karakalpakstan—literally black hat people who are more closely related to the Kazaks than the Uzbeks. Ig1or Savitsky fell in love with Karakalpakstan and at the same time collected illicit Russian avant garde artwork and local Uzbek paintings and drawings. He spirited the works of art away out of the reach of Moscow into the safety of Nukus. He was such a prolific collector that only a small percentage of his collection can be shown at a time. PBS showcased a very interesting film telling the whole story. For sale at: www.desertofforbiddenart.com . Your money will go to a very good cause.
We are back from Uzbekistan with stories of the Silk Road and the people who evolved from its fascinating history and then were submersed in Soviet rule for most of the 20th Century. Since 1991, they have been freed from the tight yoke of Russia, but Russia and Russian are pervasive everywhere. Yet there is a steady effort to recover and remake an Uzbek identity. Corruption prevails and a police state is evident, but for the tourist, Uzbekistan is safe and magnificent. You will have to travel far and wide to see better preserved antiquities or encounter more shocking yet enlightening histories.
Teachers can bring the world to the classroom and change the life of one child at a time. One teacher changed mine.
Article by Laurie & Fred Swanson
Saudi Aramco won two major awards at the 5th Annual Oil & Gas Middle East awards held in Abu Dhabi on Oct. 22.
Adnan A. Al-Kanaan, manager of the Gas Reservoir Management Department (GRMD), won Production Manager of the Year for his efforts in increasing overall production and reserves through new technologies, delineation and deepening drilling cost efficiencies and the expansion into Saudi Arabia’s gas program.
The company’s Exploration and Petroleum Engineering Center — Advanced Research Center (EXPEC ARC), meanwhile, won the Technical Innovation of the Year award for its research and implementation of nanoparticle agents through its Arab-D Reservoir Dots program, also known as A-Dots.
The Production Manager of the Year award comes at a time when the Kingdom’s nonassociated gas reserves and production are increasing to meet the Kingdom’s growing need for power and for feedstock for the growing petrochemicals industry. As manager of GRMD, Al-Kanaan oversees the nonassociated gas development and production program in the Kingdom.
“Saudi Aramco is pushing the envelope with technology to expand production and productivity, especially concerning gas development in Saudi Arabia,” Al-Kanaan said.
Speaking specifically about the A-Dots program, Khaled A. Al Buraik, vice president of Petroleum Engineering and Development, described it as “one of the ground-breaking research programs that Saudi Aramco is undertaking as part of its diverse upstream technologies portfolio. These programs don’t benefit the company alone, but the rest of oil and gas industry.” he said.
The A-Dots project is one component of the company’s program to develop reservoir nano-agents to enhance in-situ sensing. A-Dots are nano-particle fluorescent tracer agents designed to track the flow of water injected into wells. Nano-agents such as A-Dots will ultimately help increase the company’s overall recovery of hydrocarbons.
Taken together, these two awards show that the company’s drive toward operational excellence and innovation are putting Saudi Aramco at the forefront of the oil and gas industry. Leading the way in operational performance, and coming up with game-changing technologies that help improve future recoverability of hydrocarbons are not just good for business; they also give Saudi Aramco the ability to change the way in which the energy business is conducted, and to help the Kingdom become a magnet for innovation.
The Advanced Research Center of Saudi Aramco’s Exploration and Petroleum Engineering organization, known as EXPEC ARC, has successfully completed field trials of the award-winning steerable access sub (SAS), jointly developed with Welltec.
The SAS is the industry’s first electro-mechanical robotic system that can identify lateral windows and access laterals in real-time data operation. The tool was deployed in a number of well environments, both open and cased hole, over the past several years.
“This new technology provides significant impact in supporting Upstream’s business goal of maximizing future hydrocarbon recovery from our oil fields and fulfills a necessary niche within our portfolio,” said Nabeel Al-Habib, EXPEC ARC Production chief technologist.
The SAS provides reservoir engineers the ability to plan reservoir management at the lateral level in terms of logging and acidizing operations, allows production engineers to better manage the well and gives completion engineers the confidence that interventions will be possible in more complex, multilateral well designs.
“Major endeavors, such as the SAS, are representative of the collaborative research and development projects EXPEC ARC strives to achieve — not only to advance our own mission but also to provide industry innovative solutions benefiting operators around the world,” said Waleed Mulhim, EXPEC ARC manager.
The tool recently won the Intervention Technology Award at the 2014 Interventional and Coiled Tubing Well Intervention and Coiled Tubing Conference and Exhibition in the U.S.