Remarks by SVP Ahmad A Al-Saadi at the Global AI Summit

Headshot of Ahmad A. Al-Sa’adi Senior vice president Technical Services
Ahmad A. Al-Sa’adi - Senior vice president, Technical Services

Ladies and gentlemen, it's a pleasure to join you today and address this distinguished gathering. First, I would like to thank His Royal Highness, the Crown Prince, for everything he has done in support of AI in Saudi Arabia, as it is a key strategic driver of the knowledge-based economic diversification, outlined in Vision 2030. I also want to thank the Saudi Data & AI Authority for putting this event together.

Let me begin by briefly addressing the unprecedented evolution of data. According to International Data Cooperation research, the global data generation will grow five times to reach 175ZB by 2025. Nations who understand the power of transforming data into useful knowledge will enjoy a strong and prosperous future. In fact, there is a marathon underway, involving the world's foremost economic powers, to take the lead in this area, which also attests to the foresight of the Kingdom's leadership for assigning high priority to this strategic endeavor.

The Kingdom of Saudi Arabia was blessed with massive hydrocarbon resources, and Saudi Aramco, at an early stage, recognized the importance of leveraging advanced technologies to best manage these resources!

Back in the 1980s, we built a flag ship reservoir simulator, called POWERS, to simulate our reservoirs at the highest resolution possible. This effort — undertaken with the aid of supercomputing — was unparalleled at that time. Today we use its successor TeraPOWERS, a trillion cell model that incorporates AI to further increase hydrocarbon recovery, as well as discovery.

Similarly, in our surface operations, early deployment of Neural Networks and inferential models in refineries planted the seed for contemporary advancement in the use of AI and machine learning.

AI Ecosystem
Saudi Aramco continues to progress its Digital Transformation Journey, where data and infrastructure are the cornerstones of our Digital Transformation. In my view, the AI-ecosystem is built around three key pillars:

  • One, Data and Infrastructure
  • Two, Technology
  • And Three, Capabilities Building

Our data storage capacity in Saudi Aramco will quadruple by 2025 to reach 400PB. This growth is a result of deploying more than 100 thousand IoT and smart devices, virtual reality solutions, cybersecurity operations, and data analytics.

We have invested in a world-class scalable data center, and plan to double the power capacity from 9MW to 17MW by 2030. Our computing infrastructure will increase by four times, to exceed 20,000 nodes. In addition, we already have adopted a multi-cloud strategy to augment our private cloud capabilities.

As for connectivity capacity, we are expanding by 10 fold, from 10Gb/s to 100Gb/s, to accommodate the anticipated traffic growth as a result of immersive-experience technologies, and high-performance applications, such as AR/VR. Industrial Wi-Fi and 5G are being deployed in more than 10 operating facilities, to provide high speed wireless connectivity for IoT devices and wearables. For hard to reach areas, we are exploring the use of low earth orbit satellites, to provide high-speed connectivity and internet access.

These advancements and important investments in our data & infrastructure will be the key differentiator for a true scale-up of AI deployment.

On the technology front, we recognize the need for creating an appropriate technology-enabled collaborative environment for our teams to continue with AI technology innovation. Accordingly, we have established the Fourth Industrial Revolution Center, inaugurated last year, to foster innovation and fast track AI-solution development and deployment. These centers are backed by more than 11 corporate cutting-edge digital platforms, such as BlockChain, BPM, and ChatBot.

In addition, we have invested in more than 15 start-up companies focusing on AI and machine learning, locally and internationally.

Capability building
Last but not least, is to focus on building capabilities and developing talent to take full advantage of digitalization. We have already started several programs, including hosted master degrees with KAUST, Georgia Tech, and IE University in Spain.

Now, I'll share with you a few cases of the deployed AI

AI for reliability
Under reliability, Aramco geoscientists use AI to analyze seismic data and pinpoint sweet spots, meaning exceptionally high potential opportunities that can minimize drilling risk. 

When it comes to production, at Khurais for example, one of our enormous oil fields, we've deployed 40,000 sensors covering over 500 oil wells over a huge geographical area. Our predictive models forecast well behavior, allowing us to take real-time action to control and optimize production. I want to stress that the goal of deploying these technologies is to create economic value. For example, we've been able to reduce overall power consumption by 18 percent, reduce maintenance costs by 30 percent, and cut inspection times by around 40 percent. Khurais recently became our second facility, after 'Uthmaniyah Gas Plant in 2019, to receive the prestigious World Economic Forum (WEF) global lighthouse award, for being a leader in the adoption and integration of cutting-edge technologies of the Fourth Industrial Revolution.

Our teams have also developed an innovative approach to integrate different digital solutions, including “Digital Twin” and energy intensity, among other AI-based solutions. This patented solution is branded as “Plant.Digital,” and we are working with several major software providers to commercialize the product.

When it comes to supply chain management, we have completed deployment of the e-marketplace, which employs advanced machine learning technologies to deliver fast and accurate supplier and commodity data, and provide detailed spend analysis. Another interesting ongoing development is a machine learning algorithm to monitor material in transit, and help improve the on-time delivery of materials.

AI for Safety
When it comes to project safety, we worked with Foghorn, one of the AI venture capital startups we invested in through our venture capital subsidiary, SAEV; to develop a new Edge Analytics solution, to monitor, detect, and provide notifications on worker safety violations, using digital image processing. The solution provides real-time and proactive alerts for safety compliance.

AI for sustainability
Coming to sustainability that is among our highest priorities, we believe there is a key role for AI in this strategic domain.

I'm proud to highlight that we have the lowest upstream oil carbon intensity in the industry, achieving 10.1 Kg of CO2 per barrel of oil equivalent produced. Coupled with an energy Intensity of 114.1 KBtu/Boe, we are among the best-in-class of major oil and gas producers.

We've also developed an algorithm that predicts and minimizes the need for flaring. By deploying this solution, our flaring intensity remains at less than 1% of our gas production, and the World Economic Forum has recognized this impressive example of environmental stewardship.

We've also developed a greenhouse gas emissions analytical solution that monitors emissions from over 2000 sources across our operating facilities. These tools benchmark the performance of each facility across the company, to identify opportunities to cut flaring and reduce emissions.

We're now looking into the use of Low Earth Orbit satellites, coupled with advanced data analytics, to monitor and further reduce our emissions.

As we digitally transform our operations, we also continue to invest in upgrading our cybersecurity capabilities. Accordingly, we have developed our internal Machine Learning Platform to amplify governance, rapidly identify risks, elevate protection, and accelerate detection capabilities.

For example, with the increased use of remote access (SSLVPN) due to COVID19, we developed a model that would learn the behavior of a trusted user/machine, and alert our Global Security Operations Center when the behavior deviates and becomes a threat. This ability helps us adjust our internal policies and behavior management programs, to educate our user base on safe teleworking practices.

Ladies and gentleman, Saudi Aramco has both a progressive AI strategy and an active execution program leading to real results, while creating economic value.

I believe this technology will play a defining role in creating a more prosperous future, and I'm proud that Aramco and the Kingdom are at the forefront of the AI revolution.

Thank you