Technology Top Priority
Chairman meets with Aramco researchers from Detroit and Houston
Company’s global R&D program brings value and sustainability advantages.
Aramco researchers in the U.S. shared their work in innovation with HE Yasir O. Al-Rumayyan, Aramco’s Chairman of the Board, when he visited the Detroit Research Center recently. Globally, and in the U.S., the company’s research network is making significant contributions to the company’s value creation and sustainability initiatives.
“I saw some really amazing stuff at our R&D Center in Detroit. From small tweaks to existing technology that can tackle emissions in the short term, right through to a radical rethink of the internal combustion engine. This is a company that is totally focused on solutions,” said Al-Rumayyan.
“The visit by His Excellency is a clear sign that technology is a top priority for the company as it innovates for the future and addresses sustainability issues,” said Ahmad O. Al-Khowaiter, chief technology officer of Aramco, who hosted the tour.
Aramco’s global research program, with centers in Dhahran and around the world working collaboratively, is fully aligned to drive value and deliver technology solutions across the value chain for internal deployment and commercialization.
The U.S. R&D centers have a strong technology deployment rate and 400 granted patents. Aramco’s U.S. researchers have been honored with 180 awards for innovation.
“It was a great honor to share firsthand with His Excellency the outstanding achievements of our researchers and their commitment to excellence at the highest levels,” said Nabeel I. Al Afaleg, president, Aramco Americas.
Aramco has evolved rapidly into a world leader in technology. This transformation is testament to the strategy and investments of our parent company, and the quality of our researchers.
— Mohammad N. Alaskar, director of Aramco Americas R&D
Alaskar also recognized the caliber of collaboration partners that Aramco has attracted through its R&D work. They include automakers, national labs, technology startups, and universities, among other top-tier organizations.
Aramco’s R&D Center in Detroit is advancing transport technologies and showing how greater efficiency and lower emissions in transport can be achieved through advances in engines and fuels, mobile carbon capture, and low carbon fuels such as hydrogen.
“We have developed a range of new technologies that dramatically lower the environmental impact of transport, and these have real-world opportunity in terms of ease-of-adoption and affordability, as well as innovations that are aimed at longer term solutions,” said the Detroit Research Center’s leader, David Cleary.
Researchers shared near-term technologies that offer a considerable fuel efficiency benefit in close partnerships with automakers. More advanced Aramco solutions are also being developed that offer significant CO2 emissions reductions with the potential to reach the market by 2027.
During the tour, Aramco researchers presented their novel approach to gasoline compression ignition (GCI) engines, which has resulted in the first Aramco designed and built engine. GCI combined with a hybrid powertrain, in light-duty passenger vehicles, offers more than 30% CO2 emissions reduction and near zero tailpipe pollutant emissions compared to advanced internal combustion engines in the market today.
The GCI engine technology has also been developed for long haul trucks that achieved beyond 90% NOx pollutant emissions reduction over the current U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and California Air Resource Board regulations.
Hydrogen and synthetic fuels
Also discussed was the criticality of new fuels to reach near zero CO2 and pollutant emissions goals in transportation. Current projects include using hydrogen and CO2 to create synthetic fuels, with two recently announced demonstration plants with REPSOL in Spain and with NEOM in Saudi Arabia.
Aramco researchers are also working on the entire hydrogen value chain. A hydrogen fueled engine for commercial vehicles is currently in development in Detroit with a leading automotive partner.
Houston researchers joined their Detroit counterparts and shared with His Excellency the upstream technology work that is directly addressing operational challenges, embedding sustainability, and seeing success in field deployments.
A suite of proprietary stimulation and drilling fluids were presented. Developed in Houston, these fluids have helped create localization opportunities in the Kingdom and reduce company dependence on service companies. These solutions can be prepared faster, perform better, and improve recovery.
The Houston center is also home to our U.S. AI/Data Science Technology Group, where researchers recently started building a prototype AI enabled emission monitoring system. The technology applies in-house developed AI/machine learning models and algorithms to detect and quantify greenhouse gas emissions and identify sources, from multispectral data collected via satellite, airborne, and drones. The same system also provides production field asset integrity monitoring. This technology will be tested in the field in 2022, and a prototype and testing pilot will be deployed in 2023.
Rounding out the tour was a live demonstration of an Aramco developed sensor ball, a palm-sized robot attached with sensors that collects data when dropped into a well and returns to the surface at a preprogramed depth. The sensor ball replaces wireline logging trucks and introduces significant new cost and time savings.