A deep dive into Aramco’s ocean data
Aramco has been gathering oceanic data for many years. Thanks to digitization, this data is now used to better understand and conserve our marine ecosystems.
- Elements Magazine
Operating in the Arabian Gulf for more than 80 years, with some of the world’s largest offshore oil and gas fields, Aramco has learned a lot about the waters in which we work. Extracting energy from the deep waters, safely and reliably, is a serious business — and the company has been collecting data for decades to set a benchmark for its activities.
Aramco has a unique store of marine data, recorded over 50 years as part of our monitoring to aid our decision-making, and aimed at reducing impacts on the environment related to our operations.
A hub of knowledge
With a growing international commitment to protecting the oceans — as demonstrated by the United Nations’ Decade of Ocean Science for Sustainable Development — and the growing evidence of the influence of marine biodiversity on the planet’s climate, this data is becoming increasingly valuable. And it is only by analyzing how the oceans have changed over time that we can see the trends that will shape the future of our planet, and be able to respond accordingly.
With this in mind, national governments, international corporations including Aramco, and bodies such as the UN and World Economic Forum, are working together to create a digital model of the oceans to help scientists understand, and stakeholders protect, these precious marine ecosystems more effectively. The Ocean Data Platform, which sits at the heart of this collaboration, is an open digital platform being developed by HUB Ocean, part of the Center for the Fourth Industrial Revolution (C4IR) in Norway.
Mapping the oceans for global collaboration
Before we start any marine projects, we send specialists to collect and analyze data about the local environment surrounding the location chosen for our operations, to identify the potential impact of these activities. This information covers physical data such as seawater temperature, turbidity and salinity, and the wind speeds, tides, and ocean currents. Data on habitats and biodiversity is also collected and, when combined, all the data provides vital information on the ecological status of an area of ocean, and how the proposed project or operation may affect it.
Our wealth of data now has a new purpose: feeding into the Ocean Data Platform.
The power of data to protect the oceans
Aramco has a record of working with marine researchers, including a long-term relationship with the Center for Environment and Marine Studies at the King Fahd University of Petroleum and Minerals.
This collaboration has helped the company monitor marine environments over more than 50 years. This monitoring allows us to track changes in habitats including a number of coral reefs in the Gulf, where increased sea-surface temperatures have often resulted in wide-scale coral bleaching. The long-term data sets have enabled us to record changes in this ecosystem, and helped us take actions including creating new artificial reefs.
The company has been sharing our data with marine scientists and decision makers for decades, but has now joined a new global initiative — the Ocean Data Platform — which aims to make ocean data freely available and contribute to the creation of a digitized version of the ocean.
Aramco also carefully studied potential marine pollution impacts via the monitoring of the heavy metal content measured in clams and shellfish over a number of decades. And, in 2011, we published the Marine Atlas of the Western Arabian Gulf, an exhaustive study of the marine and coastal habitats of the Saudi Arabian coastline of the Arabian Gulf, in the knowledge that to protect natural resources, you first need to know what is there.
Expert teams, cutting-edge technology
In the past, marine data was often recorded by divers, in a time-consuming and often potentially dangerous way. Now, Aramco’s experience and expertise in collecting ocean data is enhanced by technology. Thanks to Aramco’s Marine Environmental Research Center at the King Abdullah University of Science and Technology (KAUST), autonomous submersibles collect data from the ocean, relaying it to a satellite in real-time. Cutting-edge technology also has a role to play once the data has been captured, as artificial intelligence algorithms can filter and analyze this data with greater accuracy and efficiency.
Sharing information with the world
Aramco has agreed to a collaboration with HUB Ocean so that its own marine data, specific to the Red Sea and Arabian Gulf, can be shared with the world via the Ocean Data Platform. The global open-source platform aims to collate multiple sources of data about the ocean into a single database, to provide new data-driven tools for scientists, industry, and regulators everywhere.
Aramco’s valuable marine data, once it is fully uploaded to the Ocean Data Platform, benefits the global scientific community in two key ways. First, it adds to the total sum of knowledge about the ocean, and in particular how it is being affected by climate change in different regions of the world. Second, Aramco’s data about specific environmental initiatives — such as its on-going projects to protect and nurture mangroves ecosystems and coral reefs — are setting new standards for ocean support, and can help guide scientists and environmental organizations conducting similar projects in other parts of the world. More data leads to more accurate analysis and more informed decision making.
Global challenges need global solutions
Protecting the ocean from the impact of climate change is a global challenge, and, to meet it, the world needs truly global solutions. The marine data that Aramco has collected for five decades can now be shared with others via the Ocean Data Platform, which is an exciting step toward a global solution to help protect our oceans.
By using cutting-edge technologies, including submersibles, satellites, and artificial intelligence, Aramco is now collecting more detailed information about oceans than ever before.
We believe that our collaboration with HUB Ocean is a timely opportunity, through which people can work together to raise awareness and find solutions for maintaining the health of the oceans. “The oceans belong to everybody” is the main message of this new ocean data partnership — and that we’re more powerful and more impactful when we work together.
Caption for top photo: Aramco’s experience in the waters of the Arabian Gulf and Red Sea have produced a wide catalogue of data. Now, technology is helping transform that data into strategies to better protect their ecosystems.