Pact Expands Research Cooperation

Strategic ties between King Fahd University of Petroleum and Minerals (KFUPM) and Saudi Aramco’s EXPEC Advanced Research Center (EXPEC ARC) were strengthened recently, when a contract was signed beginning a three-way research collaboration between those organizations and Institut Francais du Petrole (IFP).

A formal ceremony Sept. 9 at the KFUPM Research Institute (RI) here not only opened closer cooperation between the parties, but also heralded a stepping-up of collaborative research between Saudi Aramco and KFUPM.

The intent of the project is to develop a method to measure permeability directly from drill cuttings, which are small pieces of rocks continuously coming out of the well during drilling.

Permeability, the ability of a rock to let fluids pass through it, is one of the most important parameters to be established during exploration and drilling activities. It also is notoriously difficult to measure unless full cores are available.

Deriving permeability analysis from cuttings would allow real-time measuring of this important parameter in the field without the expense and delay of acquiring full rock cores and analyzing them off-site in the lab.

"Our relationship with KFUPM is a strategic one, and it is one of the strongest partnerships we have with any institution," said Khalid A. Al-Falih, Saudi Aramco’s executive vice president of Operations and co-chairman of the KFUPM-Saudi Aramco Steering Committee.

"We are committed to supporting KFUPM to attain the highest levels of excellence in its educational and research programs," said. "The current relationship has several areas of success of which we are very proud; these need to be maintained and built upon, and we will identify new areas of strategic collaboration.

"By fostering a network of cooperation among academia, independent research organizations such as IFP and Saudi Aramco, we are sure to reach our objectives — commercial, technological and educational," Al-Falih added.

Technology development is the main driver of the joint research programs KFUPM and EXPEC ARC have tackled in the past. In this instance, "Our traditional two-party cooperation is enriched by the involvement of IFP, a well-recognized knowledge hub of petroleum research," said Amin H. Nasser, vice president of Petroleum Engineering and Development and a member of the steering committee.

"This talent triad will address one of the pervasive challenges of our industry, and I fully expect that the results will have far-reaching benefits, not only to enhance Saudi Aramco’s operations, but also to invigorate the upstream research programs at KFUPM," he said.

"This method opens a potential to resolve one of the main quests in petrophysics, that is, direct, continuous, precise, real-time permeability measurement of all formations being drilled," said Muhammad M. Al-Saggaf, manager of EXPEC ARC and a member of the KFUPM-Saudi Aramco Research Subcommittee, at the signing ceremony.

"Together, utilizing the specific strengths of each of the key organizations, we can develop this technology and apply it in Saudi Aramco’s operations," he added.

EXPEC ARC’s Advanced Mud Logging, a five-year research program, will support the joint effort, providing essential expertise concerning Saudi Aramco’s exploration and other well drilling activities, serving as an aid for comprehensive formation evaluation, and funding the project.

If successful, the outcome of the endeavor is expected to have a substantial impact on Saudi Aramco’s exploration and development activities.