SPARK: A growing industrial hub in the desert
Localizing the global energy supply chain at King Salman Energy Park.
The vast Arabian desert covers almost the whole of the Arabian Peninsula.
Sweeping through its sunbaked center is Saudi Arabia’s ad-Dahna Desert, forming a mighty vertical arc that connects the Kingdoms’ northern an-Nafud and southern Rub’al-Khali deserts.
For centuries, famed ancient trade routes have journeyed across the arc’s sands to exchange goods and ideas.
Now, rising centrally from the ad-Dahna Desert’s pivotal curve is King Salman Energy Park (SPARK), a large international industrial city for energy-related goods and services, which is easily accessible from the nearest international airport, the Kingdom’s oldest seaport, and the GCC highway.
SPARK’s advantageous Arabian position lies at the center of nearly everything industrial in the Kingdom.
The metropolis, incepted five years ago, is on its way to becoming a worldwide connector for the growing energy manufacturing and services markets.
Gateway to region’s economies
International and regional businesses lease a SPARK industrial land block to build their own facilities within the serviced energy hub.
In addition to residing and operating inside the Kingdom’s industrial economy, tenants also have firsthand access to the economies of the surrounding region.
Saudi Arabia continues to be at the heart of the global energy industry. We help our investors enjoy a smooth journey by providing an industrial block with graded land, utilities to the facility’s boundary, grace period incentives, and valuable local insight and support.
— Saif S. Al Qahtani, SPARK CEO and president
SPARK is expected to contribute approximately $6 billion to the Kingdom’s GDP at maturity, and create 100,000 direct and indirect jobs.
More than 50 tenants planned at maturity
With about 300 industrial sites, SPARK divides itself in to three zones:
• Commercial, residential, and community
Industrial consists of manufacturers, which currently include oil and gas, nonmetallic, metal, environmental, digital and logistics areas.
To date in the industrial cluster, within SPARK’s wide 50 km2 burnished desert horizons are 18 companies operating or under development, and more than 30 undergoing design.
The commercial, residential and community second zone includes commercial, plans for a training institute, worker accommodation, and support services such as fire fighting, a clinic, and administration.
A standout at SPARK is the final third logistics zone.
The emerging dry port and logistics zone will be operated by SPARK Logistics, a joint venture between SPARK and Hutchison Ports, and will serve the park’s tenants and the wider locality, as well.
Set to be Saudi Arabia’s biggest dry port, the 3 km2 site will connect to the GCC railway, and will feature resident customs facilities with advanced screening technology.
Learn, prosper, and thrive
Away from the constant hum of construction activity, electronic screens cover the walls of a cooled nerve center tucked deep inside SPARK’s administration building.
At a glance, experts use the screen’s charts and diagrams to monitor the hub’s utilities use 24/7, while in an adjacent room, trained eyes use surveillance cameras to keep a secure watch on the park’s going-ons.
Nearby is an operating fire station, preparation for a clinic and training facilities, and plans for residential accommodation so people can live, work, and play at SPARK.
For two decades, Saudi Arabia, as part of its economic transformation, has been establishing industrial cities, and today has 36 existing and developing industrial cities.
A rising winter Arabian sun warms a chilly shadow stretching from a 3,000 m2 large-but-discrete gray industrial structure on SPARK’s southern boundary.
The building is owned by SLB, a global technology company, and here they manufacture completion downhole equipment.
Standing in the building’s morning shadow is sustaining engineer Haitham Maghrabi, who leads localization of new products and is passionate about innovative manufacturing.
“I engage with international and local suppliers to set up the plant with everything needed to localize product manufacturing here in Saudi Arabia,” said Maghrabi.
“Our electronic all-in-one hydrocarbon measurement, control, and production tool, which we named Manara, used to be manufactured and supplied from Houston, but is now being readied for manufacture here,” he added.
SLB, already producing materials in Saudi Arabia, was the first tenant to sign up with SPARK, and opened its Completion Production Center in 2020, which it began constructing in 2017.
Inside the SLB workshop, facilities supervisor Saud A. Almutairi oversees the manufactured components and assemblies, which include downhole screens for well completions.
“I was one of the earliest SLB team members at SPARK, and I train and certify people for manufacturing operations,” said Almutairi.
“I’m glad to be part of the SLB and wider SPARK team,” he said.
The first ever analyzer original-equipment-manufacturer investment in Saudi Arabia was struck in 2019 when Japanese company Yokogawa Electric Corporation chose to build a 12,000 m2 advanced technological equipment manufacturing center in SPARK’s digital hub.
In SPARK, the multinational measurement, control, and process solutions company manufactures analyzer systems, transmitters, control systems, and their panel assemblies for domestic and international markets.
Senior project engineer Ammar Busaleh said Yokogawa’s incremental investment was in line with its commitment to enhancing local content and supply chain development, as well as nurturing local talent, in alignment with its expansive growth goals.
“An analyzer system is a customized solution used to measure process parameters and component concentrations, which cannot be purchased readily from the shelf,” explained Busaleh.
“We design analyzer systems to meet specific customer measurement needs in various sectors, including process control, environmental monitoring, and production optimization.”
“After we design the system, we select the material suitable for the process composition, and the installation instruments suitable for area classification in line with customer and international standards,” he added.
Supervising the pressure and temperature transmitter manufacturing line is production engineer Luqman Baksh, who said transmitters are important and widely used field instruments.
“Transmitters are connected at a process point to measure pressure or temperature, and the readings are sent to the digital control system for safety, monitoring, or process control purposes,” said Baksh.
“Yokogawa has a long relationship with Saudi Arabia’s industrial sector since the early ‘80s, and our products and services are highly trusted, meeting all the required international certification.”
Novel Non-Metallic Solutions, a joint venture and innovator in the nonmetallic sector, is located in a spacious 100,000 m2 facility in SPARK.
As a frontrunner in nonmetallic applications, Novel is committed to expanding into various industrial sectors such as oil and gas, renewables, building and construction, automotive, and packaging.
Novel manufactures nonmetallic reinforced thermoplastic pipe (RTP), conducts research and development in nonmetallic applications, and is actively working toward branching into solar energy applications.
With Novel for two years, plant supervisor Mousa Khormi describes Novel’s RTP as a corrosion-free, lightweight, highly durable, and easy-to-install pipe solution that requires no chemical treatment throughout its lifespan.
“Novel’s RTP applications cater to a wide range of pressures and sizes, accommodating up to 3,000 psi and diameters of up to 8 inches for various fluids and industrial gases,” said Khormi.
Khormi and his team are proud to have worked closely with SABIC on localizing the consumption of high density polyethylene to be used in RTP applications for the first time.
Other local products are in the pipeline too, and procurement and material manager Yahya Albalawi said, “The localization of supply chain is a fundamental goal for Novel’s nonmetallic vision, driving sustainability and circular economy through innovations and technology advancements.”
Caption for top photo: An hour’s drive from Aramco’s Dhahran headquarters, SPARK’s strategic location between Dammam and al-Ahsa straddles the border of Aramco’s northern and southern fields.