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Saudi Aramco Foresees Technology Future, Creating Digital Transformation in its Business Performance
Published in Saudi Press Agency on 21 - 10 - 2020

Saudi Aramco is participating as a platinum sponsor in the Global AI Summit, which is being held under the patronage of His Royal Highness Prince Mohammed bin Salman bin Abdulaziz, Crown Prince, Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Defense, from 21 to 22 October under the title "Artificial Intelligence for the Good of Humanity".
Senior Vice President for Technical Services at Saudi Aramco, Ahmed bin Abdulrahman Al-Saadi said that Saudi Aramco continues its progress in the field of digital transformation, in which data and digital infrastructure form its cornerstone. Therefore, there are three pillars for artificial intelligence system, namely; data, infrastructure, technology and capacity building.
Al-Saadi stressed that Saudi Aramco is seeking to double its data storage capacity by 2025 to reach 400 petabytes, as a result of the deployment of more than 100,000 smart devices and Internet of Things (IoT) devices, virtual reality solutions, cybersecurity operations, and data analysis. He noted that the company has invested in establishing a world-class, scalable data center, and plans to double its capacity from 9 megawatts to 17 by 2030, and the company's computing infrastructure will quadruple.
The crude oil and gas sector is part of the rapid technical progress, in fact, for a long time it has been one of the most developed sectors in terms of paradigm shift in workplace. From remotely operated drilling rigs, to leak detection drones and underwater robots, to 4D modeling of aquifers, the adoption of Fourth Industrial Revolution technologies unleashed new resources and competencies at various stages of the value chain.
In enhancing the programs and initiatives of this digital revolution, Saudi Aramco has invested in more than 15 start-up companies that focus on artificial intelligence and machine learning, both locally and internationally. There is also interest on capacity building and talent development to take full advantage of digitization. The company has already started several programs, including masters degrees hosted by the King Abdullah University of Science and Technology, the Georgia Institute of Technology in the United States of America, and IE University in Spain.
To expand the digital revolution projects, Saudi Aramco established Fourth Industrial Revolution Center, which extends over an area of more than 2,500 square meters dedicated to the future of energy. The center is prepared for exploration, prototyping and conducting experiments before the launch phase, and includes 270 meters video wall screens, divided into groups and multiple areas, including a huge curved video screen in the artificial intelligence pavilion, on which over 20 operational solutions are displayed.
Saudi Aramco has been interested in artificial intelligence applications, as artificial intelligence contributes to creating significant economic value in the crude oil and gas business, for example, in Khurais oil field, the company was able to reduce total energy consumption by 18%, reduce maintenance costs by 30% and reduce inspection times by about 40%.
Saudi Aramco has also developed an innovative approach to integrate various digital solutions, including what is known as digital twinning, a virtual digital copy of physical assets or product, as well as energy density as one of the other solutions based on artificial intelligence.
In supply chain management, the company has developed an online marketplace platform, which uses advanced machine learning techniques to provide fast and accurate data on suppliers and commodities, and provide detailed analysis of spending. In parallel, work is underway to develop a computer system to monitor materials during transportation and help optimize their delivery on time.
Artificial intelligence technologies provide a great scope for enhancing safety in the business of the crude oil and gas sector, and with regard to project safety, Saudi Aramco Energy Projects has worked with FogHorn, one of the pioneering companies that invest in artificial intelligence systems, to develop a new solution to monitor, discover and provide forecasts of worker-committed safety violations, using advanced digital image processing technology, providing virtual, proactive and real-time solutions for safety compliance.
Saudi Aramco also has a firm belief in the key role of artificial intelligence to achieve sustainability. Therefore, a computer system has been developed that predicts the need to burn gas in the burners and reduce it. By applying this system, the burning density in the company remains less than 1% of its gas production, which was praised by the World Economic Forum. The company has also developed a solution to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by monitoring those emissions from more than 2,000 sources in all of the company's operational facilities. These tools measure the performance of each facility throughout the company to identify opportunities to reduce gas flaring in burners, as well as emissions.
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Saudi Aramco Foresees Technology Future, Creating Digital Transformation in its Business Performance 2 Dhahran
Saudi Aramco is currently looking to use data from satellites in low Earth orbit, along with advanced data analysis tools to monitor emissions and further reduce them. Saudi Aramco is exploring technologies that can capture and sequester carbon from the atmosphere; turn Carbon dioxide into valuable products; advance game-changing solutions that can lower emissions in transportation; or convert crude oil directly to chemicals or hydrogen as the possible future energy source of choice.
Since Saudi Aramco is the world's largest integrated oil and gas company, sustainability is part of its long-term vision; as demand for energy continues to grow, they want to remain efficient, competitive, delivering tomorrow's energy while minimizing the environmental impact of their activities. Therefore, the company is proud that the carbon density of its crude oil production makes it among the lowest compared to the major international oil companies.
In the field of integrated smart city systems, Saudi Aramco is leveraging Internet of Things (IoT) and Advanced Analytics to create "smart cities" within Saudi Aramco communities – no longer just a futuristic vision, but fast becoming a reality. For example, their Integrated Smart City Systems project will cover Aramco's main communities in Dhahran, Ras Tanura, Udhailiyah and Abqaiq. Using smart sensors and AI, the project will encompass smart street lights, intelligent parking, smart power and water meters, and integrated transportation. Saudi Aramco aim is to conserve water, save energy, and improve the quality of life for their communities.
In geological analysis, geologists in Saudi Aramco's exploration and production sector use artificial intelligence technology to analyze seismic data, and to identify ideal locations that can reduce drilling risks. Genetic algorithms are used to help understand and classify the properties of rocks in a way that reduces uncertainties and allows efficient and accurate determination of reservoir properties. In this regard, Spacerack , which is a self-guided submarine operating under water, has made a quantum leap in the seismic data collection sector, especially in locations that present difficulties under the water surface.
The Saudi Aramco Gas Plant in Uthmaniyah is a leading manufacturing facility in the technologies of the Fourth Industrial Revolution, as it is the first laboratory in the crude oil and gas sector to be commended by the World Economic Forum (WEF) for its ability to provide work methods characterized by higher levels of efficiency, safety and preservation of the environment. Some technologies include robots, drones, underwater robots and ground robots in responding to emergency situations and examination, obtaining direct data, improving diagnostics, enhancing safety, and reducing maintenance costs.
In wearable technologies, digital helmet empowers field technicians with information, and provides them with the ability to communicate and collaborate in real-time. Technicians can also live broadcast their exact view to engineers, who are then able to guide the technician securely using augmented reality technology.
As for asset performance management, it is a technology that addresses physical plant assets such as health, reliability, integrity, strategy and safety, to improve reliability and safety of operating assets.
In regard to advanced analytics, Saudi Aramco uses predictive analytics to apply algorithms on asset data that proactively catch anomalies, able to detect performance degradation and notifying users of potential problems.
Within the successes of applying synthetic technology in Saudi Aramco, it was announced on September 14 that Khurais oil facility had been registered in the WEF Global Lighthouse Network in applying the techniques of the Fourth Industrial Revolution, making it the second facility of the company after Uthmaniyah Gas Plant which was included in 2019, meaning Aramco is one of only nine companies represented in the WEF network by more than one facility - and the only major energy company in the Lighthouse network.
In Khurais, one of the largest Saudi Aramco's crude oil reservoir, Saudi Aramco uses the latest artificial intelligence technologies by deploying 40,000 sensors, covering more than 500 oil wells located within a huge surface area. These devices predict the behavior of wells allowing for timely actions to be taken to control and improve production.
The company continues its path of digital transformation, as it is also investing in upgrading its cybersecurity capabilities, and has developed its internal machine learning platform to expand the governance framework, quickly identify risks, raise the level of protection, and accelerate inspection and detection capabilities.
With the application of remote work mechanism due to COVID-19 pandemic, the company has developed a model that will predict whether the attempt to enter the network is made by a trusted or suspicious user as the company's security operations center is alerted, and this helps to amend the company's internal policy and behavior management software to inform its users base on safe remote working practices.


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