Nano-structured coatings, salt-removal products, and pipeline sensors top the projects in active development by the new Advanced Materials Group at Saudi Aramco’s Research and Development Center in Dhahran.
R&D at Saudi Arabia’s state-owned oil company is focusing on a new generation of materials that can address the company’s production and operational challenges, the Saudi press agency reports.
“We are pioneering research on advanced and nano-structured materials for specific oil and gas applications,” said R&DC Upstream Program director Abdullah M. Al-Houtan. “We want to develop materials that will enhance reliability and improve efficiency safely and cost-effectively.”
As with other facilities worldwide, materials science at the Saudi center is targeting new products and applications for nano-materials and nano-technology, says Al-Houtan.
“We are looking at nano-structured nickel coatings combined with carbon nano-tubes to be used for erosion and corrosion protection,” he said. “This project will be developed in collaboration among R&DC, Dammam College for Girls, and King Fahd University of Petroleum and Minerals.
“We’re also developing ionic liquids for separation applications in areas such as desulfurization, salt removal and nano-particle conductivity.”
Other projects include development of membrane materials for gas separation, which is being pursued for the Natural Gas and Sulfur Utilization Project under the Downstream and Strategic R&D Program; and creating monitoring sensors to assess pipeline integrity, which is being led by one of the group’s experts in fiber-optic sensor technology for the Northern Area Pipelines Department.
“Putting together a strong team that can handle advanced materials for Saudi Aramco is a key to success,” said Al-Houtan. “In fact, we have an excellent mix of both highly experienced and new Saudi post-graduate scientists.”
With the intellectual capital comes the laboratory assets to use it, Al-Houtan says. The center’s equipment includes a plasma spray and solution-spray system, freeze drying for nano-powder production, scanning electron workstations, pulsed electroplating, jet and slurry erosion equipment, and a high-temperature system that can reach up to 1,600 degrees Celsius.
Now that the facility is up and running, Al-Houtan sees big things ahead: “[W]e will continue to expand and position ourselves as a nationally and internationally recognized research group dedicated to becoming the most effective advanced materials group in the oil and gas industry for both upstream and downstream arenas.”