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Abu Dhabi, UAETuesday 11 December 2018

Oil majors to support R&D at global industry gathering in Abu Dhabi

Oil firms will evaluate technical solutions by researchers from around 27 countries at the two-day event

Qasem Al Kayoumi, RDPetro chairman and Adnoc technical centre unit manager said the Abu Dhabi firm was looking for solutions to help sour gas exploration. Pawan Singh / The National
Qasem Al Kayoumi, RDPetro chairman and Adnoc technical centre unit manager said the Abu Dhabi firm was looking for solutions to help sour gas exploration. Pawan Singh / The National

Oil majors are set to invest millions of dollars to support innovation in the energy industry as a leading research and development (R&D) conference returns to Abu Dhabi after two years.

Formerly known as Abu Dhabi Research and Development Conference and Exhibition (Adrac), now rebranded RDPetro, will evaluate more than 370 technical solutions presented by industry experts from 133 institutions globally at the two-day event that starts on May 9.

“Technology is very important and it has already resulted in a lot of value addition in our industry. we have improved our efficiency, our profitability and it helps us improve the recovery of our oil and safety and integrity of our facilities,” Qasem Al Kayoumi, the chairman of the conference who is also the manager of Abu Dhabi National Oil Company's technical centre, said.

Host Adnoc and thirteen other event partners, which include global oil majors such as BP and Total; national oil companies such as Petronas and the likes of Schlumberger from the energy services sector, will pool their resources in a fund to support the best technical solutions needed for their organisations.

“We will have awards for the best researcher, awards for the best abstracts and ideas and also startups,” added Mr Al Kayoumi. The two-day gathering - the largest of its kind for R&D in the energy industry worldwide - comes amid a drop in spending on research by oil and gas companies following the dramatic decline in crude prices over the past few years. BP, for instance slashed its research budget by 40 per cent between 2013 and 2015, and spending has remained fairly tight since.

The oil major, however, is now willing to loosen the purse strings and is part of the team evaluating proposals from academia and institutions in Abu Dhabi this week.

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“We’re looking at how Big Data and Artificial Intelligence will help us solve future problems but also driving efficiency and reducing cost burdens. These are the two areas, [where] we’ve done research, we have researchers [collaborating] with Adnoc and other partners,” said Salem bin Ashoor, BP’s chief representative and general manager in the UAE.

The revival of interest in R&D among oil and gas companies comes amid a drive to develop leaner business models. An uptick in oil prices, as well as an urgency to swing to profitability have also forced the companies to start investing in research.

Adnoc as part of its move towards building a leaner more integrated company, opened two innovation centres at its Abu Dhabi headquarters last year. Thamama and Panorama, the two facilities exploit data to drive down costs, with the former generating efficiency savings of up to $1 billion from 2017 levels as well as helping reduce drilling time by 30 per cent, according to Adnoc.

The UAE's five-year energy spending plan of $109bn, approved in 2017 includes provisions to unlock the country’s sulphurous gas reserves. Adnoc, which is at helm of the exploration, will look to harness technology to support more efficient gas exploration.

“How can we be more efficient and cost effective in developing these sour gas fields? So we’ll be looking at these kinds of technologies, in this area,” said Mr Al Kayoumi.

“Also, how can we improve drilling efficiency including stimulation of wells, fracking, because we have many fields, which are tight and there is gas there, but it’s sour and deep and these challenges are unique to Abu Dhabi and this [particular] kind of technology will be interesting, mainly to improve productivity,” he noted.