CALGARY, Alberta—The world will need more energy security, access and affordability as the global population nears 10 billion in the coming decades, experts say. As people attempt to solve these issues, the world’s biggest energy player, Saudi Aramco, plans to be at the forefront of innovation during the energy transition.
At the World Petroleum Congress Sept. 18, Ghaithan Al-Muntasheri, CEO of Saudi Aramco Upstream Technology Center, said Aramco is investing in numerous methods aimed at lowering emissions associated with producing oil and gas.
“When it comes to innovation, a giant challenge will always require a giant new technology,” said Al-Muntasheri. “Carbon capture and storage and lowering the upstream methane intensity are two examples of technologies that will enable us to reach our goal.”
Aramco recently announced a $1.5 billion sustainability fund to finance research exploring technologies that could lower its upstream carbon intensity—currently at 10.3 kg CO₂e/boe. Saudi Arabia aims to capture and store 44 mtpa of CO₂ by 2035.
“With this fund, we are stepping up to address the challenges in pursuit of lower carbon emissions and energy intensity. This fund is meant to increase the initiatives in carbon capture,” Al-Muntasheri said. “It is going to drive the advancements in renewable energy and carbon storage solutions.”
Aramco’s green technology
Currently, the company is developing with Linde and SLB the Jubail CCS Hub to be one of the largest carbon capture and storage (CCS) facilities in the world. Phase one of the hub is intended to capture CO₂ from three Aramco gas plants and other downstream industrial facilities. Operations are set to begin in 2027, capturing and storing up to 9 million tonnes per annum (mtpa) of CO₂.
Aramco is also progressing its nanotechnology capabilities in its quest for carbon sequestration. The goal is to help Aramco extract oil more sustainably for the long term, Al-Muntasheri said.
When CO₂ is captured in liquid form, CO₂ bubbles are formed. So-called nanobubbles have the ability to sequester more CO₂ in the same reservoir than common, larger-sized CO₂ bubbles. For unconventional formations, Aramco is exploring nanobubble CCS technology to chemically treat formations to increase sequestration capacity.
CO₂ nanobubbles are also being considered for green energy applications, such as algae bio-crude production, he said. The algae also consumes CO₂ faster than other methods of carbon capture.
To manage produced water, Aramco is developing a zero-liquid discharge technology that relies on flow dynamics. The cyclone configuration used restores hypersaline-produced water to almost drinking quality. Aramco also uses the precipitation method to remove sulfate from seawater.
“The water resources are scarce and the utilization of this technology is going to help us move some of these produced waters to others. It's also an enabler for us to use that water in other applications from upstream operations.” Al-Muntasheri said.
The final frontier for Aramco may be quantum computing, he said. Quantum computing can address a wide range of upstream, midstream and downstream challenges, including network optimization, reaction network generation and refinery linear programming.
“Quantum computing will bring us massive and faster processing for our data that will help us in exploration,” Al-Muntasheri said. “We will be able to generate subsurface images at a much better quality and, therefore, reduce the uncertainty when we drill.
“We will be able to optimize the drilling operations by looking at all the parameters of the reservoir and, when it comes to reservoir simulation, we will be able to generate extensive models that will help us make the decisions.”
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