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How can today’s resources fuel our shared tomorrow?
As the world's communities and economies continue to grow, so does the demand for energy. In our aim to meet this demand, Aramco combines reservoir modelling with pioneering simulation technology and computational science for more-sustainable recovery from our reservoirs. Such innovations, combined with the expansive scale of our operations, help enable us to meet rising energy demand — while demonstrating our ambition to align with global climate goals.
Our technology can model the physics of hydrocarbon reserves in microscopic detail
It all starts with data
The better we understand the complex geology of our hydrocarbon reservoirs and surrounding areas, the more effectively we can place wells, manage long-term hydrocarbon production, and discover new deposits.
One of the biggest challenges is the integration of vast amounts of data, collected from multiple locations at various time intervals, into one central, high-resolution model. To compound the complexity even further, it's not just one type of data.
The analysis of geological, 3D, seismic, geochemical, fluid, drilling, production data, and other sources, are used as input for our scientists' highly complex algorithms to build the most accurate pictures possible of what lies below the Earth's surface.
Multiple types of data collected from multiple locations, at various time intervals, is required for the complex calculations and algorithms used to create a reservoir simulation and model.
Permanent sensors placed in and around each well, located many thousands of feet below ground, deliver constant data streams and updates. These sensors, along with numerous other data acquisition methods, enable us to build high-resolution pictures of not only how the reservoir was formed, and what is happening in it today, but also how the conditions may change over the decades to come.
The models are dynamic, reacting and updating with new data and insights as they become available, or when new wells are drilled. The results equip our engineers with the fullest knowledge of how to optimize field development.
Making the data visual
Gathering vast amounts of data is only the beginning. We then need to analyze and interpret it, to efficiently simulate the flow of fluids through and around a reservoir, using supercomputers.
We begin by splitting each 3D reservoir model into a multitude of individual 'cells'. The greater the number of cells, and the smaller their size, the greater the accuracy and resolution of the model — but also the greater the amount of computational power required.
For example, the data in a reservoir model includes the history of the field stretching back multiple decades, as well as fluid characterization, the amount of methane, CO2, Hydrogen Sulphide (H2S), and propane currently present, the real-time temperature and pressure measurements, and more.
Prudent reservoir and water management practices
Our technology reveals not only how the reservoir was formed — over hundreds of millions of years — and what is happening in it today, but also delivers high-resolution simulations of how different fluids are moving through it, and how the structure is likely to change over the decades to come. The incredible accuracy and detail of our models and simulations serve our reservoir managers in their plans to extend our production plateau over the long term — in the healthiest manner possible for our fields and at relatively optimal cost.
The technology is critical in new field development and to optimize management of reservoirs already in production. The oil production rate is increased through the design of the wells themselves — defining the optimal place to drill, how many branches each well should have, and the placement and type of control devices needed.
Detailed on-demand simulations and models are critical in planning to ensure responsible and successful, long-term reservoir management, field development, and production
Detailed understanding of how a reservoir behaves also aids in deciding how to produce from each well. To maintain pressure and extract the oil from the rock, most reservoirs require water injection. However, if water enters a well it disrupts oil production. Our high-fidelity reservoir models, running on our in-house simulator, GigaPOWERS, capture the detailed fluid flow involved in active waterflooding schemes and enable us to design injection strategies. Such simulations reveal the rate of oil each well should produce, so that the water maintains reservoir pressure uniformly for optimal oil recovery rates.
This capability enabled the company to decrease oil-water separation. Our models also help to pinpoint the optimum position for surface production facilities such as water separation.
The decrease in separation costs, and the reduced need for this process, reduces power consumption, saving energy and, as a result, lowering emissions.
In addition, the technology is integral to our reserve calculations and production forecasts, which ensure we maintain the capability to respond to global demand changes.
The power behind the predictions
A unique challenge Aramco faced early on was modelling our enormous fields in their entirety. Our oil fields are among the largest in the world, so we had to create specialized technology in-house. As such, we were the first in the industry to develop a billion-cell reservoir simulation capability.
In 2010, we modelled the two largest oil fields on the planet for the first time: Ghawar, an onshore field which spans 174 miles in length and comprises numerous complex layers and reservoirs, and Safaniya, an offshore field which spans 31.1 miles.
Two types of power are necessary for such achievements: the brainpower of our talented scientists, and computing power. Sophisticated algorithms are the foundation of our technology, augmented by innovative visualization tools that turn our data into meaningful insights to help improve decision-making, as well as optimize our production and operations.
Then extreme computing power is required. Advances in computational power continue to push the boundaries of what’s possible. In the past, it would take days to run a simulation — and it was only part of a reservoir. With today’s computing power we run full-field simulations in hours. And soon, the 20 petaFLOPS processing power of Aramco’s new Ghawar One supercomputer — one of the world’s top 25 supercomputers, capable of 20 quadrillion (1015) calculations per second — will aid us in achieving even more ambitious milestones.
Reducing greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions
Creating such large-scale and complex models requires vast computer power — which needs a lot of electricity — and hence is associated with the production of GHG emissions. Several years ago Aramco began adopting new technologies that provide several orders of magnitude more computing power, while significantly reducing GHG emissions. The latest technological advancements in hardware (i.e., microchips, fiber connection between CPUs, internal design, etc.) are implemented, cutting energy use by up to half, allowing us to achieve the same impact far more efficiently. Our Ghawar One supercomputer has this architecture: faster in computing and far more efficient in power consumption.
Another benefit of our simulation modelling technology is the improved management of carbon dioxide. In addition to the reduced energy consumption related to water separation, the technology helps us manage CO2.
High fidelity models are continuously used in our modelling of CO2 sequestration and CO2 enhanced oil recovery (EOR) projects. These models also provide valuable information regarding how CO2 may behave underground over the decades: when injected into either saline aquifers of depleted oil or gas reservoirs.
Full field CO2 sequestration model
Effective carbon management is a priority for our company. A global team of scientists led by Stanford University — in their 2018 study — discovered that, among the countries producing more than 0.1% of global oil production, Saudi Arabia ranked the lowest in carbon intensity of any major producer in extracting, processing, and transporting its crude oil to the refinery gate.
We produced the world's first trillion-cell oil migration model in 2016, simulating millions of years of history in the peninsula. We successfully simulated oil migration in the Kingdom 20,000 times faster than before, opening up the potential to simulate the entire Arabian Peninsula in just one high-resolution model.
Advances in sensor technology and data acquisition are enabling us to gather richer data and build models with increasingly higher resolutions. This improved data, coupled with the leaps being made in computational power, will deliver simulations with more complexity and detail than ever before.
We continue to reveal new information, allowing us to predict hundreds of years into the future with a greater degree of accuracy. Considering these trends in data interpretation and reservoir visualization in connection to our goal of modelling the Saudi Arabian basin, the potential is staggering.
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