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Aramco technology and R&D take center stage at OTC


News|HOUSTON, Texas, USA|

The 50th annual Offshore Technology Conference (OTC) in Houston brought together innovators seeking to push the boundaries of offshore oil and gas exploration. As a corporate sponsor, Saudi Aramco contributed in many ways by sharing technical advances and breakthrough research and development addressing the industry’s most pressing challenges.

Representatives from Saudi Aramco and its U.S. subsidiary, Aramco Services Company (ASC), presented papers during the OTC Technical Program. Topics included material advancement, cost-effective chemical solutions for sustainable production, and nanotechnology innovations for offshore drilling.

Researchers from the Aramco Research Center-Houston offered a look at advances in production technology, detailing projects and initiatives at the exhibition booth that captured the attention of attendees and reinforced the company’s leadership reputation in Upstream exploration and production.

“Having our research featured within the technical program was rewarding and illustrated the progress we have made at the Houston Center,” said Ashraf AlTahini, ASC R&D director.

Outside of Saudi Arabia, Houston is home to Aramco’s largest R&D facility focused on Upstream. Some of the fast-track technology and research advances made with colleagues in Dhahran and throughout Aramco’s global R&D network are now deployed, or in field trials, in Saudi Arabia.

The conference, one of the world’s largest energy expositions, has come a long way since its inception in 1969 when 2,797 people participated. This year’s theme “Going the Distance” illustrated resilience and adaptability as deep-water offshore looks toward recovery with new field development and long-awaited projects authorized in the Gulf of Mexico. 

Agreement to commercialize robotic inspection technology

One of the highlights of the Offshore Technology Conference was the Shallow Water Inspection and Monitoring Robot (SWIM-R), a technology developed in-house by Saudi Aramco. Showcased during the event to demonstrate how the remote operated vehicle (ROV) can be operated wirelessly in shallow waters up to 10 meters deep, SWIM-R enhances pipeline inspection speed and efficiency while minimizing safety hazards.

Saudi Aramco is working with the Research Products Development Company (RPDC) — which is in turn collaborating with Teledyne, a leading manufacturer of inspection ROVs — to commercialize SWIM-R.

RPDC was established as a development and commercialization engine by the Saudi Arabia Advanced Research Alliance (SAARA). Saudi Aramco is one of the founding members of this alliance between leading organizations in both the public and private sectors. Other strategic partners include King Abdulaziz City for Science and Technology, King Abdullah University of Science and Technology, TAQNIA (The Saudi Technology Development and Investment Company), and King Fahd University of Petroleum and Minerals.

SWIM-R sets another first

A first success under this new agreement is the awarding of a development contract, which will integrate a unique sensor design developed by Saudi Aramco into an ROV. Ahmad O. Al-Khowaiter, Saudi Aramco’s chief technology officer, said: “We are excited about collaborating with Teledyne SeaBotix in developing an advanced technology that will address the challenges posed by shallow water pipeline inspection monitoring. The technology will substantially reduce underwater infrastructure inspection costs.”

The integrated sensor can perform ultrasonic thickness readings and cathodic protection voltage measurements at a single touchdown, thereby reducing inspection costs for shallow water pipelines, minimizing inspection safety hazards, and enabling the inspection of hard-to-reach sections.

These advancements were first developed by members of the Network Integrity Team within the Research and Development Center (R&DC). Collaboration with Teledyne has provided improvements in reliability and opportunities for global commercialization of these capabilities on an inspection-class ROV.  

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