Why India Always Amazes Me?

23 March 2015 | 0 comments | Opinions & Editorials | by

Abdulateef Al‐MulhimAbdulateef Al‐Mulhim
Commodore, Royal Saudi Navy (Retired)

A few months ago, I got an invitation to attend an event at the NASA Mission Control Center at Johnson’s Space Center in Houston, Texas, to be held by the end of this month.

I will write in detail about his event in my next column. When I first received the invite, some thoughts crossed my mind. I thought about India and asked myself why India not only amazes me but it always comes up with surprises for people around the world? You must be wondering what does my visit to NASA have to do with India?

There are many things in India that continue to fascinate people around the globe. I am not talking about the beautiful Taj Mahal, the spicy Indian cuisine, its political and electoral system or its rich and diverse culture. The Indian civilization is one of the oldest in the world and it is currently one of the most rapidly modernizing countries. It became a republic in 1950 after gaining independence from the British in 1947. In a very short span, this country progressed miraculously. This is what always amazes me about India. Let us talk about India and America’s NASA. Or in other words, let us talk about the one aspect of India that many people are not aware of.

On July 20, 1969, America landed two men on the moon. Many people around the world watched the historic event live on their television sets but a great number of Indians missed the event because many didn’t have television sets at that time. This, however, did not deter the Indians from establishing the Indian Space Research Organization (ISRO) on Aug. 15, 1969.

Interestingly, that happened only 25 days after the United States made history by landing two men on the moon — and the Indian space exploration success stories continued.

Years of hard work and small steps on this path have placed India at the forefront of the list of countries aiming to explore and conquer the outer space.

In 2008, ISRO launched Chandrayan-1 moon vehicles — India’s first lunar probe. Amazing, isn’t it?

This feat apparently did not satiate Indian experts’ hunger to strive for the best. So, last year the ISRO sent a spacecraft to Mars and with that, India joined the elite club of the most advanced countries of the world.

It is true that a few other countries were able to send spacecraft to Mars but India’s achievement was different. They were successful in doing so in their first attempt. Europe was also able to do it in the first go but it was a consortium of many countries. What astonished the world was the low cost of the Indian project. It cost India less than $80 million — one-tenth of what other space agencies paid for their projects. Some space agencies allocated and spent $750 million. It is said that in the launching of their spacecraft, the Indian scientists used and employed a slingshot method for Mangalyaan’s interplanetary journey. This is considered an unusual method.

With India’s achievements to send a spacecraft to Mars at such a low cost, may be India’s space agency will become the future transporter facilitating human travel from Earth to Mars.

At this stage, what India achieved can be taken as an example for what other countries can and should achieve for the good of our planet.

These kinds of achievements could prove to be a source of inspiration for researches and more discoveries for new things in the outer space.

India’s achievement should serve as a lesson for other countries to help them utilize their financial resources wisely on scientific projects. Let us go back to NASA. In 1960 US President John Kennedy said that America would send a man on the moon in a decade. Now, I am not familiar with the politics of India. However, many saw India dispatching a spacecraft for Mars just few weeks after the election of Narendra Modi as the prime minister of the world’s largest democracy. The Indian scientists’ achievement at the Indian Space Research Organization could not have come at a better time for the new premier.

Written by Abdulateef Al‐Mulhim. Why India Always Amazes Me? reprinted with permission of Arab News and Abdulateef Al‐Mulhim.

Pushing ME Into Nukes Race

22 March 2015 | 0 comments | Opinions & Editorials | by

Abdulateef Al‐MulhimAbdulateef Al‐Mulhim, Commodore, Royal Saudi Navy (Retired)

Amid the ongoing Iran’s nuclear issue debate, Saudi Arabia has taken a prominent position. Out of the blue, everybody has started discussions about the possibility of Saudi Arabia moving ahead to acquire nuclear weapons. Was it really out of the blue?

Billion-dollar question is: Will Saudi Arabia strive to acquire nuclear weapons?

And if so, then how long would it take the Saudis to plan and build nuclear reactors, enrich uranium and produce nuclear bomb(s)?

Generally, this cumbersome process takes years for completion. So, why should the Saudis spend so much time in acquiring nuclear capability at a time when Israel is already an undeclared nuclear power and Iran inching closer to realize its nuclear dream with every passing day. Truth be told, at this stage it is difficult to say whether or not Iran possesses a nuclear weapon. There are mixed reports on this issue; some stating Tehran has already acquired nukes and some claim that it is far from accomplishing such a feat.

Along with the entire world, Saudi Arabia has been witnessing the lengthy negotiations between the western powers and Iran with no clear signs of any positive outcome.

Saudis, however, are very annoyed especially after the clear thaw in US-Iran relations. In short, if the West accepts seeing Iran becoming a nuclear power, then the Saudis will follow.

As per reports circulating in the media, Saudi Arabia could upgrade its status from being a country with conventional weapons to a nuclear power within a relatively short span. And I am not sure how can the Saudis do it in a very short time but I guess it can be done. Saudi Arabia is not likely to wait for 10 years to acquire nuclear weapons.

The negotiations between Iran and the P5+1 might result in an agreement but no matter what the outcome may be, Iran will pursue it ambition to become a nuclear power at a time when there is no threat to it from any of its neighboring countries. And the latest approach by the American administration toward Iran is not making it any easier for the Saudis. The Saudis said over and over again that the Iranian nuclear facilities are located very close to the Saudi eastern shores. Iran is still a country that is not technologically advanced enough to handle or control any radioactive leaks from its nuclear facilities in case of a mishap.

It is true that Iran has many trained nuclear physicists but it is just not enough to handle a huge nuclear infrastructure. The Iranian Bushehr nuclear facility is located near active earthquake zone. It is true that Iran has a huge population and needs more electrical power so this is why Iran has to concentrate on building peaceful nuclear electricity generators but it should not continue in its quest for a nuclear bomb. Let us get real, who is Iran’s primary enemy in the area that makes it crucial for Iran to have a nuclear weapon? Tehran is not at war with any of the countries in the region. As a matter of fact, Iran is hostile to its neighbors.

Nuclear facilities are a threat to the neighboring countries no matter how peaceful the projects may be.

It would be pertinent to mention the threat issued by Norwegian scientists in view of the decaying Russian nuclear submarines and described them as “Chernobyl in slow motion.”

The Russian nuclear threat to Northern Europe is a reality even though Russian submarines didn’t even fire a nuclear missile.

The bottom line is that it is nice to see a Middle East without such a threat but if Iran reaches a deal allowing it to go ahead with its nuclear program, then the Saudis have the right to acquire their own nuclear deterrent capabilities. And last but not the least, the danger of nuclear weapons and nuclear facilities don’t differentiate between friend and foe. But when push comes to shove, the Saudis have the right to go to any extent to push back or deter any intruders. And now to close the discussion, various top political and military leaders visited the Kingdom in recent weeks.

Many political and security analysts were alerted by the visit of South Korea’s President Park Geun-hye.

South Korea is a country known for its peaceful nuclear technologies. And another visit that gained a lot of interest is the visit by Pakistani top political and military officials. Pakistan is the most important strategic Saudi ally. And it is no secret that Pakistan is already a member of the elite nuclear club.

Written by Abdulateef Al‐Mulhim. Pushing ME Into Nukes Race reprinted with permission of Arab News and Abdulateef Al‐Mulhim.

Local, International Poets Light Up Annual Event

19 March 2015 | 1 comment | Saudi Aramco News | by

Members of the Dhahran Poetry Group’s annual event organizing team pose with guest poets after a night of English and Urdu poetry.

“Poetry is a thing of such beauty and such power. The play of words, the imagery, and the wit make us happier, sadder, more alive, and more inspired. All of that is achieved simply by the careful arrangement of words. The mysterious power of words holds us spellbound and glued to our seats for hours on end.”

Those were the thoughts of Adil Mustafa, president of the Dhahran Poetry Group (DPG), in his remarks as he opened the DPG’s 7th Annual Poetry Event.

In attendance that evening were close to 250 members of the Saudi Aramco community, mostly engineers and scientists, who indeed sat glued to their seats for over five hours, listening to local and international poets and to live instrumental music, which provided a captivating counterpoint to the poetry.

The evening was divided into English and Urdu sections, with the English section hosted by Shahid Nawaz and Zareen Sultan.

Two company executives attended, including Ibraheem Assa’adan, executive director of Exploration, a longtime supporter of DPG. He spoke about the power of poetry and its ability to make an impact across lands and languages and even across time.

Also attending was Warren Wilder, vice president of Chemicals, who spoke about his love of poetry and dismissed the often asserted notion that engineers and poets are like oil and water and expressed his belief that poetry and engineering are closely aligned.

The speeches were followed by original poetry read by award-winning poet Siena Hansen, who is associated with the U.S. Consulate in Dhahran.

The Urdu sections of the evening were skillfully hosted by Syed Nadeem, Asif Khan and Naveeda Abidi. The first Urdu poets were members of the Aramco community, Asif Muzaffar (a geologist by day), Lozai Tanveer, and Irum Iqbal.

The highlights of the evening were three international poets who came to Dhahran specifically for the event: Dr. Nawaz Deobandi from India, Farhat Abbas Shah from Pakistan, and Dr. Nausha Asrar from Houston. The distinguished Urdu poets are also accomplished performers and skilled entertainers.

Asrar passionately rendered his poem, “Khaali Botal” (The Empty Bottle), a moving commentary on the human condition and the need for introspection and soul searching to better understand why things are the way they are.

Shah recited not only his Urdu poetry but also his poems in the regional languages, Seraiki and Punjabi. His famous poem “Shaam ke Baad” (After Dark), in which he contrasts the forces of light and dark, was praised by all. He often brought the audience to their feet.

Deobandi’s recitation of a poem on mothers and unconditional love was particularly moving, and stirred the audience with his touching articulation of feelings that many may have felt but for which we could never quite find the right words, “What oft was thought, but ne’er so well express’d.”

The evening was carefully put together by a team of more than 50 enthusiastic volunteers who took care of travel arrangements, food, stage decorations, music, ticket sales, and other tasks.

The Dhahran Poetry Group is planning to build on the success of this event and organize separate poetry gatherings in English, Arabic and Urdu. Those wishing to participate should contact Mustafa at adil.mustafa@aramco.com.

Families and Friends Gather in Dhahran for Annual Pancake Breakfast

19 March 2015 | 1 comment | Saudi Aramco News | by

Scores of hungry patrons make their way through the line at the annual Boy Scout Pancake Breakfast in Dhahran.

Aramcons from the Dhahran-area Saudi Aramco communities recently gathered for a pancake breakfast prepared by the Boy Scouts, their parents, and other leaders.

The scouts are members in Boy Scouts of America Dhahran Troop 1. Those who went to the breakfast were able to socialize with old friends and meet new people, all while enjoying pancakes, eggs, and chicken sausages with friends and families in the Dhahran area.

What originally began as a simple fundraising activity for the local scout troop has become a highly anticipated community event.

This year’s event was organized and managed by Patti Cignoli, Lisa Collins, Lani Green, and Dolores Teubner. No small matter of logistics and planning, the process of preparing for next year’s event began almost immediately after the current year’s breakfast had been eaten and the equipment cleaned.

The pancake breakfast has been bringing people together for more than 15 years as many members of the community have been attending the event for years and look forward to it each year. Sometimes, Boy Scouts are even approached by people to obtain a ticket even before sales begin.

For the annual breakfast, Scouts and their families work two to four hours each, cooking, serving or clearing tables, in addition to the many hours selling tickets in advance. The Boy Scouts worked hard to keep up with the demand, putting out fresh pancakes, sausages, and eggs as fast as they could.

The pancake breakfast also included a bake sale, which also contributes to the funds needed by the troop to purchase camping and safety equipment used by the Boy Scouts to learn the values of leadership, independence, and many other useful life skills.

The Boy Scouts thanked all who bought tickets and/or donated money, as well as Recreation for its continued support with this event, including those who made sure that all electrical systems were ready for all of the cooking equipment.

A Solar Solution: Powering the Star Building Through the Sun

18 March 2015 | 0 comments | Saudi Aramco News | by

Saudi Aramco News

Saudi Aramco has achieved a landmark in green installation by feeding power to the Power Systems (PS) main offices  through the company’s first rooftop solar photovoltaic (PV) installation.

As the Kingdom’s demand for energy increases, Saudi Aramco has committed itself to an energy efficiency drive pioneered by the Saudi Energy Efficiency Center, the government body mandated with the promotion of energy efficiency across the Kingdom.

The company aspires to reduce its nonindustrial energy consumption by 35 percent by the year 2020 through the installation of energy efficient LED lights, the testing and installation of solar panels and other renewable energy sources, and the application of new standards and requirements related to thermal insulation in homes and buildings.

A Solar Model

The solar installation was meant as a test of the performance of the footprint of a commercial rooftop photovoltaic system against energy demand during peak hours in the Eastern region of Saudi Arabia. The operation and maintenance of the photovoltaic solar system was closely monitored. The building chosen for the test was named the Star Building.

 “Months ago, we opted to have the Star Building as a model in energy efficiency for all major buildings to come,” said Ahmed Morsy, a KAUST graduate who joined Saudi Aramco’s Power Systems team in 2012. “We conducted an energy audit of the building, which set a recommendation for a solution  where lighting was changed to efficient LED in renovated wings, and smart meters with sub-metering capabilities were installed to closely monitor consumption.”

Building energy audits are being used to identify efficiency opportunities throughout commercial and residential buildings.

Environmental Rewards

The solar installation consists of 144 PV modules interconnected to the existing electrical system, ensuring the delivery of about 35 kilowatt peak (kWp) of power. Over its lifespan, the project will generate 1.2 million kilowatt hours (kWh) of clean energy, mostly during peak-demand time of the day, when energy is most needed.

This clean energy offsets the energy produced by fossil fuels, thereby saving the Kingdom’s associated oil resources for future use.

The project is also Smart Grid compatible, and when connected, will provide enough energy equivalent to light more than 50 homes every year for the next 20 years.

The project is also an environmental-friendly construction. The production of 1.2 million kWh of solar energy avoids emission of 900,000 tons of CO2 gases over the life of the project, which is equal to carbon sequestered by 670 acres of trees.

“On a grand scale, these efforts are not just about injecting clean energy into the power grid,” said Nour Shihabuddin, an engineer with the Renewables Department who is managing the construction and commissioning of the rooftop installation. “By generating clean energy, we are displacing hydrocarbons that could be better utilized within the Kingdom or even exported, creating greater value for the Kingdom’s economy.”

How it Works

The technology behind PV systems consists of solar panels that absorb sunlight and directly convert it into Direct Current (DC) electricity. A solar inverter changes the DC to Alternating Current (AC), which is integrated into the building’s main power supply through cabling, smart metering, and other electrical accessories, to cover part of the building load demand.

Information and statistics collected through this installation will be used for analyzing performance and planning future projects in the company and/or the Kingdom. The plan is to install monitoring screens within the building lobby, which will display live clean energy production data. The transparency in data visibility is a powerful mechanism that would increase awareness and promote the value and benefits of renewable installations.