Saudi Aramco and its Southern Area Oil Operations (SAOO) continues to lead the way in innovation in the oil and gas industry and is an example of operational excellence, the 2015 SAOO Innovation Campaign and Exhibition was recently told by senior management. The three-day event showcased the best innovations by employees and teams from across SAOO and several service companies. At an opening ceremony attended by SAOO management and distinguished guests, the importance of pursuing innovation and excellence was underlined by keynote speaker, Saudi Aramco’s chief technology officer, Ahmed Al-Khowaiter. The Southern Area Producing general manager Bader F. Al-Qadran, gave a speech addressing the importance of innovation to Saudi Aramco and to SAOO. In the opening speech held by the latter, it was highlighted that Saudi Aramco and SAOO continues to strengthen and sustain a robust, creative and innovative organizational culture: “The most successful individuals, managers and team leaders in the latest business world are the ones who not only innovate in their own work, but who encourage and assist others to be innovative in every aspect of their work. SAOO believes that innovation is a key enabler for improved business productivity and underpins the competitiveness of all SAOO departments. The innovation is all about creating new values.”, Al-Quadran said. He added that, for Saudi Aramco, it is imperative to remain at the forefront of new technologies to maximize hydrocarbon recovery and support the company’s expansion into chemicals and higher value derivatives. Predictive analysis Al-Khowaiter told the audience that innovation and technology have always played a pivotal role in Saudi Aramco’s business. “From the early days of exploration and production to the present day where these drivers underpin our strategic intent to emerge as a global, integrated energy and chemicals company by the end of the decade, our drive for technological competitiveness has led to a dramatic expansion of our capabilities across several technology domains in both the upstream and downstream sectors,” the chief technology officer said. Al-Khowaiter pointed out that 80% of innovations considered to be the most significant are invented, prototyped and first field tested by the end users of that technology, drawing on the conclusions of Eric A. von Hipple, professor at the Sloan School of Management, MIT. “This observation is very significant,” Al-Khowaiter said, “because many of the most significant innovations and technology improvements are generated at the business unit or operational level, and the impact of these improvements and their quick and efficient deployment into operations cannot be overemphasized. “Examples of some key technology innovations include expanding our use of predictive analytics to use past failure information to anticipate future unreliability events. We’re employing virtualization and 3D visualization of plants to perform virtual walk-throughs, viewing equipment remotely at workstations.” Al-Khowaiter also pointed to the development of advanced inspection technologies using robotics and advanced sensors. He noted the company’s growing world-scale support networks to enable further strides forward in innovation and technology: “We have doubled our technology workforce in the last five years and we hope to grow by another 30% in the coming years.” Expanding research footprint Saudi Aramco’s expansion of its research footprint globally is evidenced in the opening of its Global Research Centers (GRCs) located in innovation hubs in the United States, Europe, the Middle East and Asia, Al-Khowaiter added. Saudi Aramco’s research efforts now span the globe with GRCs carrying out ground-breaking research in Houston, Texas, Boston, Detroit in North America, Aberdeen, Scotland, Delft, the Netherlands and Paris, France. Centers are also operating in KAUST, Thuwal, Saudi Arabia, the recently inaugurated Beijing, China GRC, and in Daejeon, South Korea. Al-Khowaiter added: “Operations in our global centers and technology offices cover a wide range of research areas and are each designed to place our scientists and researchers in a position to collaborate with world-class partners to foster new thinking and to develop new approaches and new solutions to global energy challenges. New innovations allow Saudi Aramco to position itself as one of the foremost creators of technologies.” The three-day event exhibited the best innovations of a range of SAOO’s plant, producing and operation instances as well as several service companies that participated in the exhibition and showed their innovative ideas and their applicability in Saudi Aramco operations. These companies included Schlumberger, Halliburton, Baker Hughes, GE and Yokogawa.