DHAHRAN—Saudi Aramco is constantly working on finding new solutions to increase its hydrocarbon production and to ensure maximum recovery of its resources. A key element to achieve this objective is technological advancement.

“By 2030, our target is to increase the hydrocarbon resources through discovery and recovery,” said Saudi Aramco’s Hind Al Dawsari of Saudi Aramco’s Exploration and Petroleum Engineering Center (EXPEC) during media tour to the company’s premises in Dhahran. “Our target is to increase the size of our hydrocarbon discovery from 804.7 billion barrels to 900 billion barrels by 2030,” she said.  

Increasing the recovery factor of major producing reservoirs from the current 50% to 70% is another way the company plans to meet the growing demand. “Increasing the recovery by another 20% means an extra 80 billion barrels of additional reserve. These are concrete targets that we are able to achieve,” she said.

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To achieve these objectives, the company is conducting a number of research projects that cover various domains including reservoir engineering, computational modeling, drilling, production, geophysics and geology.  Research and development activities also seek to increase incremental oil recovery from major reservoirs and increase the company’s resource base. Specific technology projects are also directed toward increasing exploration probability, reducing finding costs, increasing production reliability, and enhancing cost efficiency.  

The company said it is emphasizing high-impact technologies that typically involve long-range strategies. Saudi Aramco’s upstream R&D arm, is currently working on several research projects and field pilot tests involving improved-oil-recovery and enhanced-oil-recovery (EOR) methods to achieve the target of increasing recovery rates by 20%.

So far, the company’s effort has focused on CO2 EOR and chemical EOR, with an objective to find surfactants and polymers that will tolerate Saudi Arabian reservoirs’ salinity and temperature. The surfactant recovery project aims to develop stable nanoparticles that will deliver solvents on demand deep in the reservoir. Another area of focus involves smart-water flooding, which addresses the role of ions, at microscopic scale, to increase recovery without major investment.

Big data is one of the critical domains the company gives special attention. Through its center in Dhahran, the company runs a major Computer Center located within the Exploration and Petroleum Engineering Center, which process and save all the data the company collect from its reservoirs and various operations. For the company, smart digital technology has become an inseparable part of its business given its integration in the physical, digital and critical spheres, and can be seen throughout the operations of the company, that HartEnergy.com was granted access to. This connection is clear in robotics, artificial intelligence, nanotechnology applications, computing and the Internet of Things.

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In addition to EXPEC, the Advanced Geosteering Center is one of the centerpiece of Saudi Aramco’s upstream operations. Hartenergy.com was granted access to the center during the press tour. Geosteering is performed remotely from the Geosteering Operation Center located in the EXPEC building where one geosteering can guide multiple wells simultaneously.

Thanks to the emergence of new energy technologies and breakthroughs, many of the resources located in extremely remote or challenging to develop economically and safely areas, are now been tapped  and unlocked more efficiently and sustainably.

One such breakthrough is geosteering, geology’s relatively unsung hero that, combined with a suite of technologies including horizontal drilling, brought about this new energy age. “We geosteer all the development of Saudi Aramco from this center in Dhahran, such Ghawar oil field, the largest oil field in the world, and Safaniya, the largest offshore oil field in the world,” said Khalid AlGhamedi, administrator of the Geosteering Center.

This center was established in 2005 to meet the growing drilling activity of Saudi Aramco. “This center is run by 20 geoscientists, and operates 24/7 and capable of handling 100 wells at the same time,” he explained the operations of the center.

The center enables real-time monitoring of drilling rigs hundreds of kilometers away to achieve precise, optimal well placement. Live drilling and downhole data is transmitted by satellite from rigs to the Advanced Geosteering Center, where teams of experts analyze the data to make real time decisions. Geosteering allows the company to position wells for maximum reservoir contact, resulting in enhanced well productivity and reduced development cost.

The main objective of behind geosteering technique is that it help better positioning the well in the subsurface, especially in thin targets, as well as providing better working environments and safety standards. “Instead of sending geologists to the rig sites, we run operations from the center and consequently it lower the cost per barrel and the earning of the company,” he added. “Applying the geosteering technique helped maximized the reservoir contact by 95%, which help double the rate in south ghawar,” he added.

The Geosteering Center deals with all types of oil wells such vertical wells, deviated wells and horizontal wells which accommodate almost 90% of Saudi Aramco operations.

“The horizontal drilling help us maximizing reservoir contact, which lead to higher productivity and injectivity per well, for a better sustainable rates and better sweet efficiency,” he said.

The horizontal drilling and the geosteering also help Saudi Aramco lower the cost. “Horizontal drilling maximize the reservoir contact, increase productivity and injectivity per well, as well as better sustainable rates and sweep,” he continued.

The last stop of the media tour was Aramco Oil Supply Planning and Scheduling centre (OSPAS). OSPAS monitors the entire hydrocarbon supply chain ecosystem using a sophisticated SAP technology based platform that allows integrating the company mid and long-term planning and scheduling activities, track the production from all domestic refining and gas operations facilities, manage the inventories at domestic and international storage facilities using terminal management systems, and also utilizes GPS technology to track the movement of trucks and oil tankers in the transport of our products.