R&DC Develops Fuel Formula to Cut Gas Engines’ CO2 Emissions
A team from Saudi Aramco’s Research & Development Center (R&DC) and FEV, an engine design company in Germany, recently participated in a technology demonstration event in Aachen, Germany. The event marked the culmination of a project that was developed as a means of showcasing the potential of specific fuel formulas in lowering the carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions in modern gasoline engines.
The scientists of R&DC’s Fuel Team chose an innovative approach in fuel development by not working on future fuels in isolation, but rather looking at the fuel and the engine as a single system to be optimized synergistically. For the purpose of this research, R&DC has partnered with FEV, which brought the engine testing expertise to the table.
“The joint research has resulted in experimental fuels that enable future engines to be even smaller and capable of running on higher boosting pressures, without compromising performance,” said Faisal M. Al-Faqeer, manager of R&DC. “The greatest achievement though is that this fuel/engine combination consumes significantly less fuel per kilometer travelled and consequently will emit less CO2, while it is expected that it will not increase the cost of motoring.”
During the event, the first prototype car using this fuel/engine concept was presented by the project scientists. Members of the management of R&DC and FEV were able to get firsthand experience by driving a car fueled by Saudi Aramco’s new experimental fuel. “FEV’s own test track provided the ideal environment for such a test, where driving patterns from city cruising to high speed motorway travel could be realized in a safe and controlled way,” said Amer A. Amer, Fuel Technology R&D Team leader.
The experience showed that this future fuel concept could be achieved without compromising car performance. The car was driven with the experimental fuel, showing that this new crude oil-based product developed by Saudi Aramco is compatible with existing engine technology. For R&DC, this marks the first step toward becoming a leading force in research and development of future fuels for transportation.
“As a next step, the Saudi Aramco team has started to assess implications from producing such fuels, looking at energy needs and consequently the CO2 footprint of manufacturing and associated cost,” said Amer.
Al-Faqeer commented on the unique approach adopted by R&DC in taking research on future fuels as “a system approach in cooperation with a competent partner from the field of engine research and development.” He continued “this has proven to be very successful, demonstrating the potential benefit, both in terms of CO2 reduction and potential cost.”
The skills of Saudi Aramco’s scientists complement perfectly those of their FEV counterparts. The teams have now set their sights on another challenge for the coming year: focusing on demonstration of economic and ecological benefits in a diesel type fuel/engine system.
Q&A With Head of USC Petroleum Engineering Program
Dr. Iraj Ershaghi is the Omar B. Milligan Professor and director of the Petroleum Engineering Program at the Viterbi School of Engineering, University of Southern California. He is also serving as executive director of CiSoft (USC-Chevron Center of Excellence for Interactive Smart Oilfield Technologies).
The following interview was facilitated by Karam S. Al-Yateem and Ahmad Al-Kudmani, who are Saudi Aramco employees who were instrumental in establishment of the University of Southern California (USC) – Alumni Club of Arabia (ACA).
Professor, tell us about the current industry perception of “smart” oilfield technologies.
A few years ago, we used to call the evolution of the technology “digital oil fields of the future” (DOFF). Now the future is here, and the use of “smart” and integrated oilfield technologies is a part of operations in many large international and national companies, and in small companies as well. I even see conservative operators who had been sitting on the sidelines adopting aspects of these technologies now. The biggest problem many face is the shortage of subject matter experts who can function in a collaborative environment. Rapid training at all levels is still an issue considering that the majority of entry-level engineers are not trained in the use of “smart” oilfield technologies.
What technologies have evolved in this arena of intelligent oilfield operations?
Besides the completion of “smart” wells, development of affordable sensors and remotely operated control valves, major progress has been made in “smart” data management and data mining tools, performance-based modeling, and increased use of AI in decision-support systems. Collaboration rooms have also been established as the first step to promoting and enhancing team-based decision-making.
What are the gaps in the use of these technologies?
The major gaps in many areas include the limitations of existing data integration, the expense of multiphase metering for individual wells, limitations in technology for real-time down-hole sensors and the costs associated with them, measurement tools and man-machine interaction.
What is SPE doing in promoting the concepts?
Besides a number of global forums and workshops, SPE conducts two major conferences related to “smart” oil fields. The Intelligent Energy Conference in Utrecht, Netherlands, in March will focus on the scientific progress and includes case studies and industry panels. There is also a Digital Energy Conference, sponsored by the SPE Gulf Coast Section, in Houston, Texas, where more case studies and practical solutions will be discussed. SPE now offers two short courses related to the topic. Last August we conducted an SPE-sponsored colloquium for Petroleum Engineering department heads to discuss solutions for introducing these concepts in the undergraduate PTE curriculum.
How did USC get involved with its graduate program on the subject?
The educational program related to “smart” oilfield technologies was part of the effort to establish a research center focusing on these issues. CiSoft also established a hub for training a new breed of hub center of excellence where students with an Information Technology (IT) background could attend an orientation about oil and gas upstream operations, and PTE students could learn about IT opportunities to transform the industry. Since 2004, for professionals who could not attend as full-time students, we have offered four courses related to these areas via our Technology Enhanced Distance Education Network (http://Mapp.usc.edu). Thanks to the support of Chevron, we are the only school offering this educational opportunity to industry professionals worldwide.
What would be some recommendations you can make to the new engineers joining the industry?
This is the age of information and knowledge management. The new generation of engineers joining the oil industry is expected to do better than previous generations. The industry and the world expect better recovery factors from the existing and newly discovered fields. They expect assiduous safeguarding of workers and operating environment. Information technology has transformed other industries including health care, banking, aerospace, and national defense. Petroleum engineers cannot continue using 19th century technologies when other options can help visualize the complex systems they manage from reservoir to well bore to surface facilities. They now have the opportunity to increase the efficiency of resource recovery, reduce operating costs, and minimize well failures and work-related incidents by making intelligent decisions that consider all consequences and interactivities among asset components.
What can be done to make managers enthused about the use of these technologies?
In my experience, the value proposition is still not clearly articulated across the industry. There are many case studies that can be shared to make managers aware of how other companies take advantage of these concepts. The companies that have seen value are investing in these technologies to reduce time on data-to-decision cycles, identify onset of failures, and realize opportunities in faster and more reliable production enhancement. They now have the tools to generate better operational and strategic decisions by enabling smart search, meta-analysis and predictive analytics. These decision-making processes are usually under three levels of control loops, each one nested within the other. The smallest loop is for fast, reactive decision making. Using the same sensory data, the mid-level controls apply a higher level of smart feedback controls and proactive monitoring. Strategic decisions are made with long-range understanding of the sensory data and decisions that can show their impact over a longer period of time.
In your view, who are the biggest players in the intelligent field arena and why? From an expert point of view, noting the generation gap in the oil and gas industry, can you provide recommendations to the major IOCs and NOCs to sustain and further develop our industry to remain the most reliable source of energy to the world?
To your first question I would name the IOC’s early adopters: Statoil, BP, Chevron, Shell and later ExxonMobil. Saudi Aramco certainly leads the way among the NOCs, but national companies in Oman, Brazil, Kuwait, and Malaysia are also moving ahead. In the management of offshore assets, drilling and monitoring expensive multilaterals, these companies have seen enormous value in remote control and operations. Many technologies developed for offshore are now finding applications in onshore fields.
As for sustaining production, the focus is clear. Exploration to discover new hydrocarbon resources onshore and offshore is expensive and, in many cases, requires and results in development under difficult geologic and operating environments. While this effort should continue into new frontiers, let us not forget that exploring for by-passed hydrocarbons and energizing existing and even abandoned oilfields also offers great potential for sustaining production if we focus on increasing the recovery factor using advanced monitoring technologies. Yes, it will require investment for drilling and completing newer and “smarter” wells, it will require smart monitoring of subsurface fluid distribution and reservoir management, but at least we know the hydrocarbon is there. This really requires a universal industry declaration that, given the prevailing economics, the life of oil fields must be stretched. Oilfield abandonment should become a decision for future generations of engineers with better technologies to go after remaining hydrocarbon molecules.
USC graduated many students from Middle East and North Africa (MENA), many of whom specialized in petroleum engineering. You have had a hand in developing many of these Trojans. In all honesty, is there a competency in which new MENA students most commonly require development? Please elaborate so we can give them an opportunity to work on it prior to attending. Likewise, has there been an area where they stand out compared to their colleagues?
Over the last four decades that I have taught at USC, I have had the pleasure of working with many students from MENA countries including those from Saudi Arabia, Iran, Oman, UAE, Kuwait Libya, Nigeria, Algeria, Tunisia, Egypt, Qatar and Somalia. They all come from a disciplined family environment. They are courteous toward their professors and intent on learning. It has certainly been a matter of pride for us that many of these graduates, after returning home, have achieved professional eminence in their countries and in SPE. These days, a very important component of getting professional education in engineering fields is learning the art of teamwork and collaborative decision-making. In the past, with some exceptions, participation of MENA students in team projects was limited by their choice to group studies from their respective countries. In recent years, especially since we started the smart oilfield technology program at USC, we have included in every course the opportunity for group projects. To really get the best of these experiences, I would like to see students from these countries be conditioned and encouraged to participate in group projects with other professional students from the U.S., China, India and South American countries. These networking and collaboration opportunities also provide training in distributed decision-making for solving global petroleum engineering problems. A head start conditioning effort for such training by sponsoring agencies and companies before MENA students attend USC can certainly smooth and accelerate the learning process here.
What other new technologies is USC pursuing and what are the potential benefits?
The range of some research areas pursued at CiSoft is reflected in the publication list on the website http://cisoft.usc.edu/publications/. They include immersive visualization, new developments in type II fuzzy logic, semantic web technologies, signal processing, integrated asset modeling and sensors, and sensor nets. Some focus areas include a futuristic look at how oil fields will be run a decade from now. For current, ongoing research, because of the proprietary nature of our work, we do not discuss details in public before technologies and work processes are developed and protected via patenting or copyrighting.
Jordan Wilkes Debuts in Hairspray the Musical
John Delves has every right to be proud of Granddaughter Jordan Wilkes, age 14. Jordan made her big debut in Hairspray the Musical over the last two weeks.
Jordan and the Pebblebrook Performing Arts Students performed before sold out houses and raucous crowds. Standing ovations and “we want more” crowds sent the message of WOW!
Jordan is the only female freshman chosen to perform in this production.
Yes he is proud!
View more photos in the Aramco ExPats Gallery. Jordan is in the blue dress and later in pink and orange outfits.
Sher Ali, GQ Khan, Iqbal Khan, MA Matin, SA Khan and Kamal Farooqi
The monthly progress meeting of Saudi Aramco Ex-Employees Association (SAEEA) was held on February 01, 2012. The following were the attendees:
- Kamal Ahmed Farooqi
- Engr. Iqbal Ahmed Khan
- Ghulam Qutubuddin Khan
- Sher Ali
- Mohammad Abdul Matin
- Shafiq Ahmed Khan
Following are the highlights:
- Kamal A. Farooqi highlighted the activities during the month of January 2012. He especially mentioned the meeting cum dinner party arranged by Mr. Mohammad Abdul Matin at his residence on January 25, 2012.
- During our first anniversary luncheon party few friends recommended Ahmad Shah Khan to join SAEEA as office bearer. Mr. Kamal contacted Mr. Khan to know his interest in joining SAEEA and to get acquaintance about the services one should provide to SAEEA. However, Mr. Khan showed his inability in joining SAEEA because of some family reasons.
- The fourth function of SAEEA is tentatively scheduled to be held in the first week of March 2012. Mr. Mohammad Abdul Matin and Mr. Shafiq Ahmed Khan are looking around to fix the venue for it. SAEEA will notify the details to all members soon.
- Mr. Kamal Farooqi will invite Mr. Abbas Hussain Malik, President; Muhammad Ashfaq, General Secretary and Intizar Hussain Shah, Coordinator of Aramco Old Employees Association, Lahore to attend SAEEA upcoming function in Karachi.
- On request of many ex-employees of Saudi Aramco it was decided to accept the membership of ex-employees who are residing outside of Sindh province. Download SAEEA Membership Form. Interested ex-employees are requested to fill the form and send the scanned copy to SAEEA Karachi.
- SAEEA has ordered a souvenir with SAEEA Logo, it will be available on cash payment during our forthcoming fourth function.
- Few highlights for the upcoming functions were discussed and all the members are instructed to work on them before the month end.
- SAEEA office bearers visited the Mr. Baqa Ur Rehman at his residence who was sick for quite some time. Later the group visited Mr. Azhar Ali’s son Mr. Saad Azhar Ali. Saad became the member of SAEEA by completing the membership form.
- Draft Bylaws of the association are under review by the Governing Body members.
- Kamal Farooqi prayed for Late Mr. Qamar Ali who died in Karachi on January 13, 2012. Mr. Ali worked for Government Affairs Department of Saudi Aramco. He further prayed for Mr. Aleemuddin (Ex-Employee of Dhahran Personnel) who died and buried in Dammam Saudi Arabia on January 06, 2012. Although Mr. Aleemuddin was from India, however, because of his good behavior and relations, he was equally popular among Pakistanis too.
- Last but not the least Kamal Farooqi prayed for fast recovery of all SAEEA members and their spouses who are sick.
- If you have any questions or comments then please write to Engr. Iqbal Ahmed Khan on firstname.lastname@example.org Or call on +92-321-701-4929
View more photos in the Aramco ExPats Gallery.
“A year later they would risk their lives in the labyrinth of certain death.”
Mr. Whipple is the teacher, circled left to right are 4th graders: Scott, Maco and Tim.
In the Dhahran of the 50s there were many rites of passage. The involuntary type like when you are perfectly content riding your bicycle down the street and a fly shoots into your open mouth and down your throat. You crash your bike to the asphalt, coughing and choking, certain that you are about to die.
There are the voluntary kind such as the first time you jump off the end of the salt water injection pier at Abqaiq beach or when you slip out of camp at night, head for the jebal and climb to the top of the radio tower. Spread out below you is all of Dhahran, bathed in the flickering glow of the flares at the Stabilizer, the night sky littered with stars like so many rhinestones strewn on black velvet. What a view.
Ras Tanura Outdoor Theater from a photo taken in 1946 by Wallie Ballor. The original Dhahran outdoor theater probably looked much the same, they were tennis courts during the day. The permanent theater was built right after the war.
Billy James lived across the street from me. He was four years older and a ninth grader but sometimes he’d let me hang around. One day he told me there was a labyrinth of tunnels that stretched endlessly beneath the movie theater. They were dark and pitiless, teeming with fanged albino rats, venomous snakes and tarantulas as big as your fist. You had to be careful as one wrong turn and you’d be lost, doomed to die of hunger beneath the movies. How could I resist.
The next week the strike team assembled for Pepsi at the Fiesta Room, me and Maco and a guy I’ll call Scott Miller to mask his identity. We reviewed our equipment: Maco had a flashlight, Scott had one of those aluminum Army style canteens and I had a ball of red yarn so we wouldn’t get lost, we also had three Mars bars just in case. All checked off, we nonchalantly strolled out the door turned left, past the recreation office, past the theater and then turned around the corner where we instantly became furtive even though there wasn’t a soul to see us. About halfway down the length of the theater there was a square concrete block well, eight feet down were the grates for the ventilation system.
We crawled down to the grating, lifted one up and dropped in. Before us built into the wall was the yawning maw of the main AC duct. I tied off the yarn and we climbed in. The cross section of the sheet metal ducting was maybe three feet high and four feet high, I don’t really know exactly but it wasn’t too roomy. The first thing we noticed once we were in, the ducting flexed back and forth making a helluva sound. So we tried to creep slowly without setting it off.
After about fifteen feet we ran out of yarn. Oh well. We pressed on through a thick layer of lint, dust, stray asbestos insulation and god knows what else. The theater was built in 1947, so at least ten years of filmy debris was stirred up into the air. After another few feet Maco dropped the flashlight with a loud bang that echoed up and down the duct. It didn’t work anymore unless you hit it and then it would flicker a bit and go off. There was still some light from the opening so we kept on – still no fanged rats, until the ducting turned 90 degrees. We looked around the corner and could see some light and hear a little noise. Hungry by then, we ate the Mars bars. We continued on for a bit when Scott opened the canteen for a drink and dropped it. It clunked against the sheet metal reverberating like a sonic boom, then gurgled in the dark. Now we were mucking through a linty mud but the sound got louder.
Finally we wiggled forward and before us was the wide grating that sucked the air in from the theater. If you’re in the movies, it’s right beneath the front of the stage. We made our way up to the grill work and before us were the people raptly watching the movie. All the front row seats occupied by kids we knew, the light from the screen flickering across them in different colors and shades, the soundtrack blaring and they didn’t know that we were there, just ten feet away. Cheryl DiGiacomo, Diane Sherman and Gayle Miller sitting quietly together, Tom Moss and Ron Poole sprawled out like pashas, Twila Jones and Mary Lynn Colgan eating popcorn, Tommy Williams, Doug Tedsen and Hammond jabbing each other in the ribs, Donna Gibson and Mary Catherine Teal sharing some smuggled in French fries, Ralph Wells twitching in the end seat. We were mesmerized. As stupid and as insensitive as we were, we knew that this was a magic moment, the shifting light across their faces, the disembodied sound booming away, the cool air blowing past us. The spell was broken by a voice booming through the ducting, “You boys, come out of there, right now.” Busted. “You’re in big trouble. Right now.” Resigned to our fate we crawled back out, through the mud of the spilled canteen, past the Mars bar wrappers, to the end of the red yarn and out to the opening where Desaa, the Goanese lifeguard scowled at us. Behind his game face he was probably howling with laughter at the sight of us covered with mud, our hair powdered with lint and dust. He took us to the Rec office where some American dressed us down and sent us home. The next day our parents received notices that we were banned from the entire recreation block for a week.
Four days later – it seemed like a month to us, we sneaked through the bowling alley door into the kids’ side of the Fiesta Room where we regaled a rapt audience about our adventure: the albino rats with bloody fangs, the viper that Scott crushed with his canteen, the enormous scorpion that struck at my sneaker and left his stinger attached, the huge cobweb like cotton candy that nearly suffocated Maco. Swear to God. It was terrible, we don’t know how we made it out alive. And undoubtedly someone in the audience began making his plans to enter the labyrinth of certain death.