by Scott Baldauf

Partners Producing Groundbreaking Work at Dhahran Techno Valley

Making the Silicon Valley of the Middle East
Nasir K. Al-Naimi urges the senior management of 17 research facilities to help make DTV the “Silicon Valley” of the Middle East. Al-Naimi’s remarks came Sunday as Saudi Aramco and its strategic partners, King Fahd University of Petroleum and Minerals and Dhahran Techno Valley Co., celebrated a year’s worth of achievements at the labs. (Photo: Habeeb Al Hadad/MPD)

Al-Khobar — Saudi Aramco and its strategic partners, King Fahd University of Petroleum and Minerals (KFUPM) and Dhahran Techno Valley Co. (DTVC), this week celebrated the achievements of the 17 research labs at DTV over the past year.

These labs, operated by some of the top names in the energy sector, have produced dozens of patents and almost 200 technology transfer outcomes — all of which will help Saudi Aramco to improve its performance in the fields of upstream, downstream, and power generation, while also helping to foster an innovation ecosystem in the Kingdom.

Seeding the Value Chain

In a keynote speech at an event held Sunday in al-Khobar, Nasir K. Al-Naimi, Saudi Aramco’s vice president of Petroleum Engineering and Development, urged the senior management of the 17 research facilities to help make DTV the “Silicon Valley” of the Middle East.

“Like the planting of a tree, we should think of ‘seeding the value chain’ with intellectual properties and research and development as something that benefits the entire ecosystem,” Al-Naimi said.

Saudi Aramco’s own research and development activities have already produced a number of commercialized technologies, Al-Naimi said. He mentioned two recent examples:

  • The Saudi Aramco Inspection Robot used for inspections of hard to reach steel surfaces
  • NOMADD, a robot that cleans solar panels without damaging the panels at an estimated $2,500 per megawatt annual cost savings over manual cleaning.

“I welcome your insights and ideas as we look for a structured way to seed not just a few trees, but a living, breathing forest that will sustain this ecosystem for generations to come.”

DTV by The Numbers

During the dinner, DTVC’s CEO — Craig Smith shared some of the high-level results of the 2018 DTV Partners Assessment — an annual assessment of performance for the companies that have invested in DTV. This assessment includes metrics and outcomes, initiatives where DTV had seen progress, as well as challenges facing DTV companies, and areas where there is a need for improvement.

The assessment was based on data from 14 companies that are operational at DTV, although three companies (Sinopec, Saudi Electric Company, and Schneider Electric) were building facilities in 2018 and commenced operations in 2019.

Here are some highlights from the 2018 assessment:

  • 67 patents filed by DTV partner companies, up from 61 in 2017
  • 191 technology transfer outcomes, up from 57 in 2017
  • 1020 total employees, up from 909; as of mid-September 2019, employment stands at approximately 1200
  • 48.5% of all DTV employees are Saudi, and 17% of them are women
  • Total number of collaborative projects between DTV partners and KFUPM has increased 62.5% over 2017
  • The number of co-op, summer internships, and research work by masters and Ph.D. students has increased 75.7% over 2017.
Making the Silicon Valley of the Middle East
Schlumberger’s research team generated the concepts, in collaboration with Saudi Aramco’s EXPEC ARC, for several new tools such as LWD Slim NMR, and LWD Ultra-Slim Under Balance Coiled Tubing Drilling Acoustic. These tools are currently being tested in Saudi Aramco fields.

“2018 was a busy year and living testimony to DTV’s vibrant growth and expansion,” said Smith, who also thanked the assembled DTV partner companies for “making Dhahran Techno Valley a globally recognized world leader in energy research.”

Other speakers at the event included Halim Redhwi, deputy CEO of DTV Holding Co., and Mesfer Al-Zahrani, vice rector of Academic Affairs at KFUPM.

DTV partner companies and KFUPM academic departments participated jointly in a technical knowledge exchange workshop covering issues of talent, research and technology development, and future strategies.

DTV also recognized Pierre De Vuyst, president and CEO of Yokogawa Saudi Arabia, for that campany’s 2018 Most Improved Performance, and Demos Pafitis, senior vice president of technology for Schlumberger, for 2018 Best Overall Performance.

Partners Doing Good Work

DTV partners note that there are still challenges ahead in the task of creating an innovation ecosystem. But there are numerous examples of tangible benefits from research carried out by the companies at DTV.

Among them are:

  • Honeywell UOP’s R&D facilities, where researchers used DTV pilot plants to test adsorbent formulations to remove H2S from natural gas containing carbon dioxide.
  • Schlumberger, who worked with Saudi Aramco’s EXPEC ARC to generate concepts for tools such as LWD Slim NMR, and LWD Ultra-Slim under Balance Coiled Tubing Drilling Acoustic.
  • Baker Hughes General Electric, which used its research facility at DTV to produce a number of patented solutions, as well as a new-phase Transformation Fluid Based Loss Circulation Material.