Engineering Excellence

Resilience after Abqaiq attacks recognized

The Abqaiq Plants restoration team earns honor at Institute of Chemical Engineers (IChemE) Global Awards 2020.

Resilience after Abqaiq attacks recognized

Last year’s production return of the world’s largest crude oil stabilization facility has received respected international process engineering recognition.


After the mid-Sept. 2019 attack, teams of process engineers worked immediately to safely return and restore Abqaiq Plants’ oil stabilization process.


The engineering excellence and professionalism of Abqaiq Plants restoration team won one of this year’s Institute of Chemical Engineers (IChemE) Global Awards 2020. Abqaiq Plants, one of eight finalists selected from dozens of entries, was announced as the winner of the oil and gas category at a virtual ceremony last week.  


Excellence as a Core Value


Southern Area Oil Operations vice president Khaled A. Al-Buraik described the award as “well deserved.”


“This award is recognition of Aramco’s deeply embedded drive for excellence, which galvanized us to fast-track the safe restoration of production within 48 hours through Abqaiq Plants, and bring back 5% of global oil production,” he said.


“When we invest in Aramco facilities, we robustly design for safety, flexibility, reliability, and sustainability for longer term returns,” Al-Buraik said. “This remarkable accomplishment is a result of the extraordinary commitment and collaboration across Aramco, and I congratulate all of the teams involved for this well-deserved global recognition.”



Solving tough challenges with innovation


Creative and competent engineering is the key toward finding solutions for tough challenges. Abqaiq Plants caught the judges’ eyes for how process safety, longevity, and enhanced performance were embedded in the restoration activities.  


When the intricate and complex facility was shutdown fully for the first time in its history, it took multiple customized procedures to safely isolate, and then restart the system. 


Furthermore, wherever possible, rather than replace items, repair, repurpose, and reuse strategies were utilized.  Among standout process improvements was enhancing stabilizer performance through an improved inlet device, which provided for better distribution across the internal separation trays leading to enhanced energy intensity. 


Additionally, a new processing scheme was developed to process different crude grades with increased flexibility to boost facility resilience.


“To bring back Abqaiq Plants’ capacity within 10 days, while adding further resilience and improvement to the process, Aramco implemented a robust execution strategy to perform this critical work and has exceeded expectations and affirmed its position at the forefront of the hydrocarbon world and its reputation as the most reliable energy supplier,” said Upstream Projects general manager Fahad A. Al Ammari. 


“This was driven by the strong and robust focus on creativity and innovation of the well-developed engineering talent, skills and competencies, which is a hallmark of Aramco,” said Saudi Aramco chief engineer Jamil J. Al-Bagawi.


Abqaiq Plants is the first finalist from Saudi Arabia to win an IChemE Global Award, an annual worldwide award in its 26th year, which is considered the world's most prestigious chemical and process engineering award. 


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