Innovation

New research facility accelerates future of Upstream R&D

EXPEC Advanced Research Center (EXPEC ARC) scales up with new building and extra room to grow and innovate.

New research facility accelerates future of Upstream R&D

With its EXPEC Advanced Research Center (EXPEC ARC), Aramco is creating game changing technologies and solutions that add immense value to operations. 

Recently, EXPEC ARC’s capabilities were taken to the next level with a newly constructed state-of-the-art building in Dhahran. The new facility is custom-fit to help EXPEC ARC become the preeminent center for Upstream R&D, with more than 54,800 m2 of space to innovate, including 300 fit-for-purpose lab modules that provide the capacity to respond to the company’s Upstream challenges through the development of breakthrough solutions. 

This latest addition to our facilities will go a long way toward ensuring Upstream’s place right at the forefront of the Fourth Industrial Revolution, and as a leading protagonist in the new sustainability agenda.
— Nasir K. Al-Naimi, senior vice president of Upstream. 

Six year journey

The building has undergone a journey that took six years to design and build. From 2016, when Aramco’s Board of Directors visited the site during the groundbreaking to their more recent visit to the center in April after the construction was completed, the new center demonstrated the type and impact of research that EXPEC ARC conducts. It emphasized how Upstream technologies add value to operations and promote sustainability, the role of Fourth Industrial Revolution (IR 4.0) in accelerating digital transformation, and how the new facility enables R&D scale up.

The building’s innovative design incorporates a world-class research environment, with state-of-the-art facilities and unprecedented capabilities for agile R&D, including high bay, imaging, and core labs, to name but a few, that facilitate advanced experimentation from the atomic-scale all the way to field-scale within a safe testing environment. 

The high-bay labs, for example, allow easy reconfiguration to accommodate advanced experiments and future expansions that will scale up R&D and host field-scale testing inside the building. Specialized clean rooms provide a wide range of controlled environments for preparation and fabrication. And purpose-built computational areas capitalize on the very latest IR 4.0 technologies to help solve key challenges and ensure Aramco continues to meet the world’s needs for reliable, affordable, and sustainable energy.

This groundbreaking facility is one of the largest of its kind in the region. Its design philosophy promotes a culture of well-being, as well as engagement, collaboration, knowledge sharing, and innovation through its multiple venues. This is evident in the nine bridges that connect the different research divisions within the building and the underground tunnel that links the research center to the Core Area to ensure alignment with Upstream business needs and inclusion in technology development.

“The new facility brings EXPEC ARC’s most valuable asset — its people — under one roof promoting cross-disciplinary research. They are fueling the center’s aspiration for excellence in developing breakthrough technologies to address Upstream business challenges,” said Ashraf M. Al-Tahini, manager of EXPEC ARC.

Fostering collaboration

The high-tech collaboration venues and integrated offices foster collaboration, allowing teams to work around the clock with EXPEC ARC’s Global Research Centers (GRCs) in the U.S., Europe, China, and KAUST, strengthening knowledge sharing and communication. These GRCs continuously develop and deliver innovative technologies by utilizing their global expertise and unique scientific ecosystems. The synergy between EXPEC ARC’s teams in Dhahran and around the globe maintains our agility and accelerates R&D, while providing the requisite capacity and flexibility to respond to evolving Upstream challenges.

“EXPEC ARC has emerged as a global leader in Upstream R&D; yet, the journey is just beginning!” said Waleed A. Al-Mulhim, executive director of Petroleum Engineering and Development. “With the addition of this new facility, we are expanding our capabilities to further accelerate the development of sustainable technology with a focus on reducing our carbon footprint.” 

With this world-class facility, sustainability continues to be a cornerstone of EXPEC ARC’s research program. EXPEC ARC is laying the foundations for the hydrogen economy and driving advances in carbon capture, storage, and utilization, significantly reducing the carbon footprint of our Upstream operations. All of these initiatives demonstrate the company’s leadership and commitment to reducing emissions as it works toward fulfilling its 2050 net zero pledge.

Not only that; EXPEC ARC leadership in R&D provides the impetus to accelerate the efforts to transform Upstream operations using digital technologies. The department’s vision involves developing integrated solutions for subsurface imaging and interpretation, as well as establishing autonomous and intelligent advisory and control environments for continuous monitoring, analysis, and prediction of hydrocarbons. These systems will enhance exploration and maximizing recovery rates to optimizing costs and boosting efficiencies. 

“Breakthrough technological innovation is absolutely central to realizing Upstream’s strategic objectives. This latest addition to our facilities will go a long way toward ensuring Upstream’s place right at the forefront of the Fourth Industrial Revolution, and as a leading protagonist in the new sustainability agenda,” affirmed Nasir K. Al-Naimi, senior vice president of Upstream. 

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