Category Archive: Pipeline
The inauguration last week of a new Aramco Research Center in Cambridge, Mass., near Boston, signaled another step forward in the company’s strategic commitment to build a global research and development presence, and to expand its worldwide research network and capabilities. The global research and development (R&D) program positions Saudi Aramco to grow its already technology-intensive upstream and downstream programs.
The center’s opening ceremony drew about 100 attendees, including officials from universities, local research institutions and partner companies, who joined Saudi Aramco president and CEO Khalid A. Al-Falih and other Aramco representatives at a ribbon-cutting and facility tour.
In his keynote address at the event, Al-Falih highlighted the importance of R&D, how technology can contribute to accelerated R&D activity and the role of collaboration in the company’s broader research strategy. “To provide the energy the world needs,” he said, “our challenge is not simply to develop more energy supplies … but also to make them cleaner, more cost-effective and more efficient. That means revolutionary, game-changing technologies.
“We see innovation and increasing knowledge intensity as the next opportunity for transformative growth and prosperity, since it will unlock new possibilities and affect every human endeavor,” he continued. “Making a real difference to the world through transformative innovation is precisely why Saudi Aramco is establishing research centers in key hubs around the world.”
In the past 18 months, the company has made substantial progress in its global R&D program, opening new research centers at the King Abdullah University of Science and Technology in Thuwal, Saudi Arabia; and internationally in Delft, The Netherlands; Paris; Daejeon, Korea; and, in the near future, Beijing. The two other U.S.-based centers will be officially inaugurated next year in Houston and Detroit.
This network of new centers has been established to align with and advance the ground-breaking work being conducted at Saudi Aramco’s Exploration and Petroleum Engineering Advanced Research Center (EXPEC ARC) and its Research and Development Center (R&DC). Strategically located in geographic centers of excellence, the centers are ideally situated to “access novel ideas and tap global talent wherever particular strengths may lie,” said Al-Falih.
An equally important driver of the R&D program is the role it will play in strengthening the Kingdom’s research capacity, as well as the commercialization and manufacturing of company technologies. A core outcome of the global network is the ability to bring benefit to the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia through innovations that foster growth.
“Research is an investment; it is a long-term strategic commitment. Saudi Aramco recognizes that R&D is key to its growth and is on a course to build its research program as part of a far-reaching plan to become a global leader in energy and chemicals,” Saudi Aramco’s chief technology officer Charles Kresge said in his remarks during the event. “This investment builds on decades of strong in-Kingdom R&D achievements.”
The Cambridge center will pursue major advances in upstream and downstream energy research. Addressing subsurface challenges of hydrocarbon discovery and recovery requires focus and deeper fundamental research to achieve the goals we are targeting, according to Samer AlAshgar, manager of EXPEC ARC.
AlAshgar explained: “The research center in Cambridge gives EXPEC ARC the ability to connect with a large pool of very bright and innovative scientists and engineers as well as the ability to collaborate with many top tier institutions in this rich ecosystem. Our intent in Cambridge is to continue to advance Saudi Aramco’s leading position in areas of subsurface technology where we look to further deepen and expand our research programs in computational modeling as well as nanomaterials as they relate to subsurface applications of monitoring and recovery.”
The area is also home to a proportionally high number of entrepreneurs, start-ups and new businesses, which can offer investment opportunities for the company’s venture capital subsidiary Saudi Aramco Energy Ventures.
The company’s R&D objectives are lofty, and major innovations will be needed to meet them. Among those objectives, Saudi Aramco is seeking to increase average recovery rates from oil reservoirs; image subsurface with high-resolution and clarity; drill faster; improve baseline gasoline, fuel efficiency and carbon capture; and achieve the elimination of industrial emissions and discharges from oil and gas production.
The company’s president and CEO Khalid A. Al-Falih explained how Saudi Aramco is taking an active role in the Kingdom’s efforts to transform into a knowledge-based society in his keynote remarks at the first Global Knowledge Society Forum held in Dhahran this week.
“The coming era, which will witness the advancement of the company’s growth, the Kingdom’s economy and the world’s prosperity, will be based on creating knowledge rather than consuming it,” Al-Falih told an audience of academics, researchers and government officials.
Saudi Aramco’s King Abdulaziz Center for World Culture, in partnership with the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) and the King Abdulaziz City for Science and Technology (KACST), hosted the two-day forum under the theme “Building Knowledge Societies for Sustainable Human Development.” The goal was to catalyze the development of a knowledge ecosystem in the Kingdom.
“We admit we don’t exactly have a magic recipe to address this challenge, and that is why this forum brings together these key players,” Al-Falih said.
Al-Falih elaborated on a four dimensional framework that describes the company’s efforts that contribute to the Kingdom’s transformation toward a knowledge economy. These efforts have followed four key areas, including: science and technology; human capital; diffusion of knowledge and information infrastructure; and entrepreneurship.
Addressing the science and technology, Al-Falih expressed Saudi Aramco’s sincere desire and determination to play an active role in global technological advancement by the year 2020. “We started one year ago by creating a network of eight research centers around the world. We established the Saudi Aramco Energy Ventures (SAEV) company to capture the bold and emerging energy technology opportunities wherever they exist. … We also developed a solid national and global base for research and collaboration partnerships with prominent universities and research centers in the Kingdom and abroad,” Al-Falih said.
The partners in the company’s science and technology initiative include KACST, King Fahd University for Petroleum and Minerals (KFUPM), and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT).
A positive result of one such partnership, with the Ministry of Education, is the first knowledge incubator in the Eastern Province, which is scheduled to open in the next three months. With the capacity to accept 5,000 students and teachers, the incubator is what the company plans to be just the first of many to help improve education in the Kingdom.
However, creating a knowledge society isn’t just about creating knowledge, the CEO explained, noting the need for knowledge to be disseminated and made available in an attractive form.
To spread knowledge, he said, the proper infrastructure must be in place. “Information technology has the capacity to change the ways we gain, produce and disseminate knowledge,” he said, emphasizing the importance of investment. “Although the Kingdom’s communication sector has made huge strides in the past two decades, there are still gaps to be filled in order to provide information to all citizens, particularly students, wherever they are.”
One such investment is the King Abdulaziz Center for World Culture, which Al-Falih described as “a giant platform for disseminating knowledge, fostering innovation and celebrating cultural diversity.” The Center’s iThra Youth Program, in collaboration with the Ministry of Education, intends to reach two million Saudis by 2020. Meanwhile, the iThra Knowledge program, which targets families, has already reached 300,000 Saudis this year. The program strives to reach more than 10 million by 2020.
Al-Falih concluded his remarks with a word of advice. “Creating a sustainable future for the coming generations represents both the goal and the means for transforming into a knowledge society,” he said. “This is why it is necessary to deal with the young generation as mature partners in the making of the future, and to consider the great vision and capabilities they possess.”
Abqaiq Plants recently held workshops for its 1,000 employees to encourage innovative thinking, creativity and problem solving.
This focus on innovation is based on the knowledge that, in competitive times, the company that can unlock the creativity of its workforce is the one that will be the best. Saudi Aramco has recently developed a new administrative area, led by a chief technology officer, to manage the innovative solutions that employees create in their daily work. Nurturing these ideas is a key factor in the Accelerated Transformation Program, which drives the company’s long-term strategy to be a leading global energy and petrochemical company to help the Kingdom transform a resource-driven economy into a vibrant, knowledge-based society.
In his opening remarks, Abqaiq Plants Operations Department acting manager Khalid Al-Ghamdi said he could see big changes in the way that Saudi Aramco views innovation.
“In the past, we were end users of innovative ideas,” Al-Ghamdi said. “We used to source new technology externally; now, we want to do this ourselves.”
He added, “We have a huge potential for formulating new ideas and should be seizing the opportunity to capture them.”
The main objective of the workshops was for employees from all areas of the plant to work together, using their problem-solving skills. Abdullah Ali Abdullah, IT analyst and lecturer, assigned problems to each of the teams, some of which had never worked together before.
Abdullah began by asking participants a simple question: What, exactly, does innovation mean?
“Linguistically, the word ‘innovation’ (in Arabic, ibteda’a) implies creating something new, or something that was not there before,” Abdullah said.
This kind of innovation is powerful but rare. Other forms of innovation, such as improving an existing system, using an existing technology in a new context or discovering ways to become more efficient, can also impact positively on the way Saudi Aramco conducts business.
The danger, Abdullah said, is to be complacent and satisfied with maintaining old ways just because they have worked well in the past.
Once-dominant technology companies such as Kodak, Nokia and Blackberry have lost their market positions because of a failure to keep up with the pace of innovation. Abdullah said Saudi Aramco, despite its proud history and continued position within the industry, cannot afford to rely on past successes for future rewards.
“It is tempting to think we are doing well, so why change?” Abdullah said. “But the truth is that in such a market, you have to be innovative. Companies that fail to be on par with their competitors are eventually left behind.”
In his closing remarks, Abqaiq Plants Maintenance Department manager Mohammed A. Al-Said thanked the Abqaiq Plants Ideas Management Committee (IMC) for the well-organized workshops. He also thanked the presenter for his dedication in conducting them.
Al-Said then asked the participants to evaluate their daily activities and try to find areas for improvement, ensuring they are safe and more effective.
“The innovators’ minds are much appreciated by Abqaiq Plants Management and the company,” he said. “They are an asset to our business and will be distinguished and recognized.”
A pioneering prime time TV show created by Saudi Aramco’s signature youth initiative launched on the Arab world’s largest network, MBC TV, this past weekend.
The ground-breaking program, titled “Subscribe,” is a combined effort between the King Abdulaziz Center for World Culture’s award-winning iThra Youth initiative and MBC, and is expected to reach millions of viewers over the course of 13 episodes.
The first episode is estimated by MBC to have been viewed by at least one million viewers, and social media was overwhelmingly positive.
The Cultural Center’s iThra Youth program strives to inspire young people to be lifelong learners, creative innovators and critical thinkers by giving young Saudi people an emotional bond with STEM (science, technology, engineering and math) subjects through technology-rich, interactive and innovative programs.
The “Subscribe” series airs at 7 p.m. each Friday for 13 weeks, with a second airing at 1 a.m. on the following Saturdays. The TV program focuses on science, technology, reading, art, creativity and volunteerism with content delivered through an exciting, modern and youthful approach.
The presenters — two Saudi males and two Saudi females — anchor the show, which also features accomplished male and female Saudis between 20 and 30 years of age.
“Subscribe” is expected to be a game changer in the “edutainment” offerings within the Arab world and is targeting viewership through both TV and social media. This will be achieved by introducing a “two screen” concept for the first time in the Arab world, where the pre-recorded show airs simultaneously with its online show, with the four presenters interacting live with the audience and answering their questions and comments. The online show starts 10 minutes before air time and ends 20 minutes after the show finishes.
The Cultural Center’s iThra Youth and other team members were integral to the design, production and content development of the show.
The King Abdulaziz Center for World Culture is a major undertaking on the part of Saudi Aramco to create a beacon of knowledge, creativity and cross-cultural engagement in the Kingdom.
Link to MBC program website page: http://www.mbc.net/subscribe
Link to iThra Youth website page: http://www.ithrayouth.net/
Also see: http://en.kingabdulazizcenter.com/
It was 2011 when reliability engineer and Ras Tanura adult education climbing instructor Donald Poe first laid eyes on the iconic sandstone tower in the Wadi Dissah. He had seen a picture of the beautiful red tower southwest of Tabuk and thought, “I’ve got to climb this.”
Three attempts and 2-1/2 years later, he has succeeded. In October, Poe became the first climber ever to reach the top of Dissah Tower — and he did it alone.
“I had a goal to get to the top, and yep, I’ve done this, without damaging myself or my gear or someone else,” Poe said. “I was quite happy with it.”
Dhahran climbing instructor and Saudi Aramco school teacher Julie Brockish describes both the climb and Poe himself as “inspirational.”
“I’m quite impressed,” Brockish said. “I’m impressed that he had the determination and the persistence to get out there and get to the top of that thing. People have been looking at that tower for a long time, and nobody’s figured out how to get on top of it, and he did. When it came down to it, he was the only one obsessed enough to get back out there again and figure it out.”
Brockish described Poe’s accomplishment in the context of the international climbing community as “big — huge, actually.” According to Abqaiq climbing instructor and business systems analyst Omar Asali, the tower has been pictured on climbing websites, on brochures from the Saudi Commission for Tourism and Antiquities and even on a Mobily phone card.
“It’s the highest climb that I know of in Saudi Arabia,” Asali said. “It’s amazing.”
Poe, an American from Lubbock, Texas, has been employed at Saudi Aramco’s Ras Tanura Terminal for more than 35 years. In 2002, he was introduced to climbing when he went on a half-day rock-climbing trip in Australia because his scheduled hiking excursion was cancelled. “To me it’s like climbing a ladder,” Poe said. He liked it so much he has been back to climb with the same Australian outfit every year since. “I’ve been to a half a dozen or a dozen places in Australia. All climbing. That’s all I want to do,” he added.
“He intensely wants to climb all the time,” Brockish said. “He goes on vacation and spends 50 and 60 days climbing in a row, consecutively, only not climbing if they insist it’s raining too much. He’s obsessed with it.“
The Dissah Tower is 335 vertical meters to the top, 90 of which are a scramble to approach the tower before actually using ropes and gear to climb. Poe used 270 meters of rope and spent 55 hours on the rock over the course of six days. He carried water, ropes, chains, a drill, climbing hardware and gear (which he installed into the rock for future climbers.) He carried a total of 53 kilograms, carefully planned and hauled up the tower over multiple days.
Every day, Poe started from the bottom of the tower and climbed higher than he had the previous day, using the rappelling points and the ropes and chains that he had installed the day before. “We bolt the chains to the rock and leave them there, for the next person who comes up,” Poe explained, describing the work done by the first climber of a new route. Future climbers “can clip into those chains and belay, knowing they are solidly anchored.”
“This is all red sandstone at this location,” Poe said of Wadi Dissah. “Not the best rock that you can climb on, a lot of loose stuff, and it is weather worn. There’s a lot of debris, and that can be dangerous.”
He used a self-belaying device, which allowed him to secure his own weight on the climbing rope without another climber’s assistance. Normally climbing is done in pairs. One person clips into a harness and rope and scales a rock face, while another person stands below, holding the other end of the rope in case the climber loses his or her footing.
Poe sent a summary of the climb’s successes and challenges to his Saudi Aramco climbing colleagues.
Poe’s approach to the dangers of climbing is philosophical. “It’s like anything else: you have a goal and keep focusing on the goal. I was cautious — well aware of the dangers. Every night I would … text (my fellow climbers) and say, ‘I made it back; yep, still here, still going.’ (I was) very cautious about not falling, not testing my gear … I was well aware, I could be hung up there till the crows came.”
Martial arts training from years past prepared him to calm the “wild monkeys” of fear, panic and doubt in his mind. “If the wild monkeys get in control, (they will tell me) ‘this rope’s not going to hold, I’ve got to go down.’… I say, ‘I have done this move in the gym, I know this move.’ And that’s how you go up. You’ve just got to quiet the wild monkeys.”
Brockish was “shocked” at Poe’s decision to do the climb solo. But she said, “Don really is an amazingly strong climber. He climbs these incredibly difficult things in the gym, these three corners of the (Dhahran gym) tower using no official handholds, just balancing over his feet. He has incredible core strength and balance, which are two really hugely important things to be a good climber.”
Brockish also pointed out how inspirational it is to know a climber who is this strong and is in his 60s. “I can’t walk around and say ‘I can’t do that because I’m too old.’ He’s older than me.”
“Don is really zen-like,” Asali said. “He doesn’t hear anyone; he just focuses, doesn’t hesitate much even in tough situations. He’s really calm and has a lot of confidence to do stuff. He rarely says, ‘I can’t do it.’ … That’s something we all need to learn when climbing outside. In the gym, you climb harder, but outside, you (can) get scared and lose your focus.”
The Saudi Aramco climbing community as a whole was holding its collective breath as Poe made his climb. His nightly text messages were being sent to climbers in Dhahran, Ras Tanura and Abqaiq. The communities all know one another. For months, while Dhahran’s gym has been closed for renovations, Dhahran climbers have been trekking to Ras Tanura and Abqaiq to get their gym-climbing in. Abqaiq and ‘Udhailiyah both have new climbing walls, and the climbers in Ras Tanura are in the process of applying for self-directed group status.
“The popularity of the program has grown exponentially,” Brockish said. “This reflects the growing popularity of the sport in general. There are people coming into Saudi Aramco who have already been climbing. Climbing is popular for fitness, strength, and endurance.” She said that many people, both kids and adults, want to take climbing classes, and they must now work to increase teacher training and access for everyone.
To that end, Saudi Aramco schools asked Arabian Rope Services to help standardize protocols for the climbing gyms, and in August, they did just that. Brockish said there is now a working document that lays it all out, so all of Saudi Aramco’s climbing gyms are working from the same book.
Aramcon climbers also get outside and climb together in the cooler seasons, making excursions to locations around al-Hasa’s Shedgum Escarpment. Poe has been instrumental in discovering new routes to climb locally. “One of the things that’s really great about Don is he works tirelessly to try to make outdoor climbing available here in the Eastern Province,” Brockish said. “He goes out and drills and sets up anchors and figures out pikes to wedge in place.”
“There’s rock climbing all over this place,” Poe said.
“It’s exciting for climbers in Saudi Arabia that it happened, and it’s exciting for our local community that it was somebody from here that we know and care about,” Brockish said. “Don is adding a lot of great fun for the climbing community in this part of the world.”