How Aramco is Harnessing the Power of AI and Big Data

Aramco is Using Big Data and AI to Optimise its Operations Across Various Areas, Driving Improvements in Efficiency, Cost Reduction and Sustainability

Advanced technologies are being used globally to drive efficiency and improve business operations, with data and AI helping organisations achieve their goals. Aramco, one of the world's largest integrated energy and chemicals companies, is no exception.

The second-largest company in the world by revenue harnesses the power of AI, Big Data and the Industrial Internet of Things (IIoT) to help optimise its operations and to help it achieve a variety of goals, from improving workers’ safety to reducing CO2 emissions.

With roots dating back to 1933, Aramco has long-used advanced techniques to help it discover and extract crude oil. In 2000, it built a state-of-the-art R&D centre, where – along with centres in the United States, Europe and Asia – to this day Aramco researchers are working on a number of breakthroughs.

Today, AI is a key tool in the company’s digital transformation programme, and Aramco continues to design, develop and deploy innovative smart tools, and other digital solutions, in order to analyse and improve its decision-making processes and to boost business performance. 

“By taking full advantage of the benefits of AI and Big Data, we aim to stay at the forefront of supplying the world’s growing demand for reliable, affordable, low-carbon energy,” the company says.

How Aramco is using AI and Big Data

Aramco has set itself the goal of becoming the leading digitised energy company, and it sees the rapidly-developing world of industrial AI as key to achieving this goal. 

Below, we explore five examples of how Aramco is capitalising on the power of these advanced digital technologies in practice.

AI systems helping flare monitoring

Flaring is the release and combustion of hydrocarbon gases caused by pressure build-up in pipelines and processing facilities. By enabling its engineers to visualise the entire gas processing system at once, Big Data is used by Aramco to quickly identify sources of flaring and generate solutions. 

Aramco has 18,000 data sources that supply information, allowing it to monitor and forecast flaring. By comparing this real-time data to models built using various Big Data processing techniques, Aramco’s in-house-developed AI systems can predict when a facility may  exceed its flaring targets so that remedial action can be taken in advance. 

According to the company, the use of Big Data and AI has contributed to Aramco achieving a greater than 50% reduction in its flaring since 2010.

Advanced visualisation tools powering reservoir modelling

Reservoir simulation uses state-of-the-art digital visualisation tools to model Aramco’s reservoirs, and their management challenges, and thereby guide its decision-making to achieve optimal development plans. For example, TeraPOWERS, which is Aramco’s reservoir and basin simulator, utilises Big Data to simulate the entire hydrocarbon system of the Arabian Peninsula, using models that are continually updated with new drilling and production data. Sophisticated algorithms then analyse this data to maximise our access to these hydrocarbon resources.

Harnessing Big Data analytics and machine learning at Khurais oil field

At Khurais, one of Aramco’s largest oil fields, the company has deployed 40,000 sensors to monitor more than 500 oil wells — creating the world’s first Advanced Process Control (APC) for a conventional oil field. 

According to Aramco, harnessing the latest advances in Big Data analytics, machine learning, smart sensors and robotics has delivered several benefits at Khurais. These include the development of an in-house AI solution for optimising fuel gas consumption in boilers; using robotics to make maintenance operations safer, cheaper and more efficient; and deploying a pipeline management system to detect possible leaks using fibre optics as a sensor. 

These digital solutions have helped to achieve a 15% increase in oil production and a 100% improvement in troubleshooting response times.

Digital transformation at Aramco's Abqaiq plant

Abqaiq, which has been in operation for more than 70 years, is Aramco’s biggest oil processing facility and the largest crude stabilisation plant in the world. Aramco says the digital transformation of Abqaiq has led to significant operational improvements.

Aramco is using robots and smart drones at its Abqaiq plant to perform nearly a third of routine operations, reducing the reliance on manual field checks. At the same time, the introduction of machine learning and AI algorithms has enabled the automatic adjustment of the oil stabilisation process, leading to increased power generation performance and a reduction in CO2 emissions. Aramco has also expanded its use of data, analytics and predictive modelling to help its engineers anticipate potential system failures more effectively.

Abqaiq is Aramco's main oil processing centre for Arabian Extra Light and Arabian Light crude oils. Pic: Aramco

According to CEO and President Amin H. Nasser, announcing the company’s most recent financial results, Aramco is set to continue investing & leveraging advanced technologies.

“We intend to continue investing across the hydrocarbon chain, leveraging cutting-edge technologies to optimise our operations and advance the development of emerging energy solutions.”

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