Speaking at this year’s American Association of Petroleum Geologists (AAPG) and Society of Exploration Geophysicists (SEG) International Conference and Exhibition, Ibraheem M. Assa’adan, vice president of Exploration with Saudi Aramco, discussed how geosciences had fueled decades of success for hydrocarbons — the substance that changed human civilization and propelled economic prosperity over the past century.
Celebrating AAPG’s 100 years of existence, the 2017 edition held last week in London featured many sessions assessing the progress of the industry over the past century.
Technology + effort = success
Assa’adan noted that geological science alone would not have allowed for such success, as it was a combined effort with geophysics that led to major revolutions in discovery and recovery, and oil becoming essential to civilization.
Touching on the future of demand, Assa’adan discussed how the conversation had shifted to one of concerns around peak demand, rather than the peak supply mantra that prevailed over the past century — though he added that it would always be healthy to have supplemental energy resources.
“Looking at the next 20 years, based on official forecasts by specialized agencies, we envisage incremental demand increases, and even at a flat 100 million barrels per day, it is estimated that around one trillion barrels will be required over the next three decades,” he said. “This is particularly true given that 65% of the world’s population live in the developing world, and this population continues to grow by 30% in the foreseeable future.
“We’re seeing a steady increase in gas demand as fuel and petrochemical feedstock. Oil to petrochemical is also an intriguing area for technology R&D that, once proven, will reshape future demand.”
Continual improvement critical
Assa’adan said that despite demand factors, it’s important that the upstream sector continued to find ways of doing things better — especially in terms of industry talent — as young professionals are still needed.
“With the coming of the fourth Industrial Revolution and the technologies it brings with it, such as artificial intelligence and high-performance computing, our geoscientists are now able to simulate entire petroleum systems,” said Assa’adan. “We want to work hard at understanding the petroleum system, onshore and offshore, and these technological upgrades will help us.”
Saudi Aramco itself currently has a one trillion cell basin simulator, built last year. Assa’adan said the industry will be lagging in this crucial area no more, as the time for total petroleum system simulation and high definition geological basin modeling has come, and it will no doubt reshape the future of the industry on aspects of discovery, recovery, and unconventionals.