Cutting-edge technology will play a pivotal role in a sustainable energy future

Ignite 2020 event spotlights the leaders and innovators behind the digital world.

Cutting-edge technology will play a pivotal role in a sustainable energy future

Technology and effective research and development will help reduce global carbon emission levels and drive the energy mix of the future, Ahmad A. Al Sa’adi, senior vice president of Technical Services has told a global digital conference.

Al Sa’adi, who shared a virtual platform with British Petroleum (BP) CEO Bernard Looney, was speaking at the start of the three-day Ignite 2020 event, which spotlights the leaders and innovators behind the digital world. The session was held under the banner “What is Next for the Global Energy Transition: Technology for Transformative Change.”

Sustainable energy

Al Sa’adi addressed some of the most pressing challenges for the energy industry, including climate change and sustainability. He pointed to the critical importance of technology in the delivery of a sustainable energy future.

Most would agree that in an ideal world, energy would be readily available, sufficiently reliable, widely affordable, and of course sustainable. Most would also agree that we need to give climate concerns the highest priority.
— Ahmad A. Al Sa’adi

He noted that progress has been slow in the development of alternative technologies to cut carbon emissions, namely electric vehicles (EVs), which represent less than 1% of the world’s vehicle fleet, and renewables.

Solar and wind energy produce less than 10% of the world’s electricity and account for a global primary energy share of less than 3%.

“While both alternatives will make a positive impact, what these numbers confirm is that the challenges EVs and renewables still face mean that they alone will not be enough to make rapid progress," said Al Sa'adi. “More potent and comprehensive strategies are certainly desirable.” 

To accelerate the move toward the Paris climate goals, greater attention should be given to reducing the carbon footprint of existing energy sources, he added.


Technology and research and development will play a pivotal role in this goal in the oil and gas industry’s efforts in cutting carbon emissions.

“Areas we are working on include partnering with automotive manufactures to develop high mileage and integrated engine fuel systems of the future, as well as enhancing the efficiency of many oil and gas uses in general.”

Al Sa’adi cited Saudi Aramco’s first shipment of high-grade blue ammonia to Japan for use in zero carbon power generation as an example of the company’s successful R&D efforts.

“In addition to R&D initiatives, we have also established a digital transformation program that spans the entire value chain of our operation," he added.

And one of the strategic pillars of this program is to strengthen our leadership position on climate and environmental performance, while we continue to make progress in creating digital oil fields of the future.
— Ahmad A. Al Sa’adi

Another focus is the advancement of carbon capture, utilization and storage technologies.

Aramco has been actively transforming into a highly digitalized energy company with a vision to become the leading digitalized energy company in both value creation and innovation by 2022. 

Fourth Industrial Revolution

The showpiece of the company’s digital transformation is its 4IR Center at its Dhahran headquarters.

Al Sa’adi held up Saudi Aramco’s Khurais facility as the largest intelligent oil field in the world. “In fact, just last month, our Khurais facility was recognized by the World Economic Forum for excellence in the adoption of cutting-edge technologies of the Fourth Industrial Revolution.”

Saudi Aramco’s digital transformation journey, Al-Sa’adi noted, has resulted in greater collaboration with leading global universities, and the Ocean Data Foundation in Norway.

Cyber risk management

Khalid S. Al Harbi, chief information security officer with Saudi Aramco’s Information Security Department, also spoke at the Ignite event on the topic of “Risk Management: Categorizing and Managing Cyberattacks on Operational Technology (OT) Assets.”

“We are pursuing industrial transformation through leveraging emerging technologies in various domains to reap benefits related to cleaner and safe operations, intelligent capabilities, and efficiency,” Al-Harbi told the session.

“A notable example is the recent recognition of the World Economic Forum to Aramco’s ‘Uthmaniyah gas plant and Khurais oil field for excellence in adoption of the Fourth Industrial Revolution, and their inclusion in the Global Lighthouse Network. 

Caption for top photo: Aramco’s senior vice president of Technical Services Ahmad A. Al Sa’adi and British Petroleum CEO Bernard Looney speak virtually during the three-day Ignite conference. The event featured the theme “What is Next for the Global Energy Transition: Technology for Transformative Change.” 


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