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18/06/2020 – Technology / Energy / Oil & Gas / Saudi Aramco / Digitalization / IIoT / Big Data / AI / 4IR

Technology: Saudi Aramco’s designs on digitalisation


The Digital Transformation Program underway at Saudi Aramco is enabling KSA’s energy giant to capitalise upon digital technology breakthroughs to deliver tomorrow’s energy more sustainably, efficiently and safely.


The world is currently undergoing a wave of rapid technological advancement that is blurring the lines between the physical, digital, and biological spheres. Known as the Fourth Industrial Revolution (4IR), it is shaping every aspect of our lives, from cloud computing, mobile connectivity, Artificial Intelligence (AI) and Big Data. 


By connecting physical assets such as machines with digital systems, businesses can generate accurate insights, respond in real-time to challenges, and become more efficient. For digitalisation to have real impact, however, it must be integrated across the whole business. The oil & gas industry is no different – and when achieved, full digital transformation will revolutionise how we supply energy to the world.


On the cusp of a new era


For over a century, oil & gas has played a vital role in the economic transformation of the world, but the industry today sits on the cusp of a new era. Digital transformation promises to deliver increased operational efficiency and workplace safety, as well as minimise the environmental impact of the industry.


New technologies set to be deployed across oil & gas industry operations include: 


Big data analytics. This provides us with complex and real-time insights. For example, it is used to improve CO₂ sequestration, carry out data modelling for reservoir management and forecast production performance.


Industrial Internet of Things (IIoT). This is a system of interrelated computing devices, machines, and people, where data and equipment are communicating. For example, in oil & gas, IIoT sensors can be used to gather data from an oil well, combine with big data and AI and provide instant insights and solutions.


Robotics & drone technology. Such technology enables safer and more efficient inspection capabilities, allows for early detection of leaks, supports aerial mapping, underwater welding and environmental monitoring, as well as inspecting assets like offshore rigs and pipelines in difficult to access locations. 


Artificial Intelligence (AI). AI is used in machine learning, gauging potential risks of new projects before they’re implemented or data science, extracting information and linking related data to form comprehensive pictures. 


Cloud Computing. This is not only an inexpensive, scalable and agile platform for AI, big data and IIoT technology, it also allows for more insight-driven decision making through analytics. 


3D printing or additive manufacturing. This simplifies the production of complex components or prototypes, reducing expensive downtime and removing long waits for parts – especially to print replacements at remote locations. 


Augmented Reality (AR) & Virtual Reality (VR). AR creates real-world settings, while VR immerses the viewer in a virtual setting. Both technologies are used in oil and gas to train technicians to test complex tasks before implementing. 


Transforming Aramco’s operations


Saudi Aramco has announced its aim is to be the leading digitalised energy company. “We’re deploying technology solutions that meet the world’s energy needs while minimising the environmental impact of our activities; reducing CO₂ emissions, enhancing fuel efficiency, conserving water, and creating next-generation materials that make consumer products lighter and stronger,” the firm said in a statement.


We are achieving this through our dedicated 4IR Center, where the application of science and imagination is transforming the way we run our operations. Not only will the 4IR Center enrich the technical skills of our workforce, it will also bring advanced technology capabilities to realise the company’s Digital Transformation Program.

Robotics and SWIM-R


Invented by the firm’s Research & Development department, Saudi Aramco’s Shallow Water Inspection and Monitoring Robot (SWIM-R) employs ground-breaking technology that tackles many challenges faced in the industry. 


One such challenge is inspecting pipelines in shallow waters. These inspections are currently performed by divers, connected to a diving support vessel (DSV) using an umbilical cord. 


Navigating a DSV in shallow waters holds the risk of impact with underwater obstacles. However, SWIM-R enables the inspection of these shallow water pipelines safely and efficiently while reducing the associated time and cost.


4IR Center


Spanning 2,500 square metres, Saudi Aramco’s 4IR Center (4IRC) is dedicated to innovation and exploring cutting-edge technology.


The futuristic AI hub is ringed by a large concave screen that displays over 20 operational solutions, focused on developing advanced analytics and machine learning solutions. The UAV space demonstrates operational uses of air, ground, and underwater robots that support flare stack inspection, or methane gas detection. 


The VR Zone is used to develop and train operators; through augmented reality and virtual reality, they are able to get a live sense of the plant experience from a simulation booth.

Saudi_Aramco_4IR Center.jpg

Uthmaniyah Gas Plant


Saudi Aramco’s ‘Uthmaniyah Gas Plant has been recognised by the World Economic Forum as a ‘Lighthouse’ manufacturing facility – specifically, as a leader in 4IR technology applications. 


It is one of the world’s largest gas processing plants, and uses advanced analytics and AI solutions to increase productivity while enhancing safety, reliability and efficiency of its operating facilities.


The use of drones and wearable technologies to inspect pipelines and machinery – such as digital helmets that capture video images, and glasses that load information directly on to the lens – has helped cut inspection time by a remarkable 90 per cent.

Saudi_Aramco_Uthmaniyah Gas Plant.jpg

Pushing boundaries


Saudi Aramco has stressed that it is dedicated to digital technology transformation in the oil & gas industry. “Not only will digitalisation allow for greater efficiency, but it is spurring innovation, a digital-savvy workforce and will create new jobs,” the firm noted in a statement. “Using this technology minimises the environmental impact of our industry.  


Key to the firm’s vision is how it collaborates – partnering with the brightest minds around the world while investing in its own workforce. And, by embracing advancements across a full suite of new and emerging digital technologies – via a global network of research centres and innovation hubs that span the US, Europe and Asia – the scientific research undertaken by KSA’s energy giant will clearly continue to push boundaries in the years ahead.

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