Nonmetallic Solutions

Technology development

At Aramco, we are a catalyst for developing technology solutions to address some of the world’s most pressing energy and materials challenges. Innovating nonmetallic materials is one such area in which we are making significant contributions.

Why are nonmetallics important?

Corrosion is a big problem in industries around the world. The global cost alone is estimated to be US $2.5 trillion, equivalent to 3.4% of global GDP, impacting businesses, governments, and society. Nonmetallic solutions – such as the development of advanced plastics – can therefore play a significant role in helping to reduce this problem.

Nonmetallics could offer the potential to

Eliminate
or minimize corrosion to enhance safety, integrity, and reliability of products such as pipes
Encourage
investment in new nonmetallics-producing companies and therefore support job creation
Minimize
life-cycle costs by reducing the cost of corrosion, maintenance, or replacement
Promote
the conversion of oil to petrochemicals
Reduce
the emission of carbon dioxide considering the entire life cycle
Inside room at Pipelines Management Center – computer screen
Pipelines Management Center, whose mission is to transport Aramco’s hydrocarbons with the highest standards of safety, reliability, efficiency, and environmental responsibility.

Thanks to the elimination of metallic corrosion, their lightweight properties, durability, and cost efficiency, nonmetallic materials could play a major role in the oil and gas industry. But, as part of Aramco’s journey to be a major player in this expanding industry, we have identified four other sectors, which could benefit from accelerated growth; automotive; recycling; building and construction; and packaging. We are working within each to grow development and deployment opportunities.

Aramco’s growth opportunities across five key industries

Oil and Gas

Nonmetallic applications in the oil and gas sector include onshore and offshore piping, tanks, vessels, cooling towers, valves, pumps, as well as secondary offshore structures. We are increasing the deployment of nonmetallic materials across our operations, including 2,400 km in onshore applications, and use in some 80 conventional gas wells. Nonmetallics can expand life-cycle cost, reduce the impact of corrosion, and reduce our carbon footprint.

Automotive sector

The automotive industry is already a large consumer of nonmetallic products. For example, carbon fiber reinforced plastics are lighter than steel, which means less fuel consumption, better vehicle performance, and lower emissions. We are developing and promoting carbon fiber and polymer-based technologies, and we are exploring how to reduce the manufacturing costs of carbon fiber for mass production.

Building and construction sector

The building and construction sector has huge growth opportunities for nonmetallic materials, such as composite rebars, polymer concrete, structural components, flooring, building accessories, and composites claddings. In 2018 we used fiber reinforced polymer (FRP) rebar in a 21-kilometer long storm water drainage channel in the Jazan Economic City project, considered to be the world’s largest project utilizing FRP.

Packaging sector

There are opportunities for nonmetallic solutions related to polymer degradability and recyclability associated with the packaging industry, such as plastic pallets and containers. As an initial step, we are planning to replace our future demand of wood pallets with plastic pallets. We are also exploring deployment of other nonmetallic applications in the packaging industry, and within our joint ventures and local suppliers.

Renewables+

The use of polymeric materials to replace glass in solar photovoltaic (PV) panels is a potential expansion of nonmetallics, and we have initiated R&D to develop polymer and hybrid polymer materials. We have aligned with a solar PV panel manufacturer to adopt and commercialize future solutions, and are also working with the National Renewable Energy Program to localize PV panels, and promote the use of polymer-based PV panels in Saudi mega-projects. 


Key milestones on Aramco’s nonmetallic journey

Khurais Oil Field

Our own application of nonmetallics is not new; we have been using nonmetallic pipes in most of our oil and gas facilities for over two decades, and it is also standard for most utility applications in our plants. But it was our mass deployment of reinforced thermoplastic pipe (RTP), at our Khurais megaproject in 2015, that brought our use of the material to a new level.

RTP ensures there is no need for welding, and because the pipes can be spooled, laying them is easier than traditional options. For example, the Khurais RTP flowline tie-in and construction timeframe was reduced to less than two days, compared to the typical 70 days for laying carbon steel. RTP is a potential game-changer in the oil and gas industry, being longer-lasting, more cost-efficient, faster to install, and lighter in weight; all this has made for a less energy efficient intensive installation process and a lower carbon footprint.

Layers of Reinforced Thermoplastic Pipe – RTP – nonmetallic solutions
Reinforced thermoplastic pipe (RTP) refers to the high strength and durable synthetic piping that is corrosion resistant, light weight, and immune to temperature and pressure problems. It is typically made from high-density polyethylene and polyethylene raised temperature resins, and consists of three layers: the inner layer contains the process stream; the intermediate layer reinforces the pipe; and the outer sheath protects the pipe from impact and weathering. We deployed over 400 km of RTP at Khurais Oil Field.
View of the Non-metallic Innovation Centre – Cambridge, England
The Non-metallic Innovation Centre brings together academic institutions, research organizations, and industry leaders to develop nonmetallic solutions for the petroleum industry and beyond. Image supplied by TWI.

Non-metallic Innovation Centre

Capitalizing on the growth opportunities in the oil and gas sector, the Non-metallic Innovation Centre (NIC) is a partnership between Aramco, The Welding Institute, and Abu Dhabi National Oil Company. This partnership will focus on expanding the use of nonmetallic pipes, bringing together prominent academic institutions, research, technology organizations, composite manufacturers, and leading oil and gas companies to develop a suite of polymeric solutions for the petroleum industry.

The NIC will also promote widespread global use of advanced polymeric materials more generally, conducting research that addresses challenges in their implementation, developing products and technologies that accelerate their deployment, establish industry standards, and drive down the cost of nonmetallic composite products.

Strategic Collaborations

A pioneer in the application of nonmetallics within the Kingdom, we are also working globally, through collaborations with local and international suppliers and research institutes, to accelerate nonmetallics development and deployment. For example, as part of the NIC partnership, we have signed an agreement with Future Pipe Industries to develop research into RTP applications. We have also initiated a joint venture with Baker Hughes to manufacture nonmetallic materials to be used in a variety of areas of the energy industry.

We are directly supporting in-Kingdom growth through our localization program IKTVA. National Oilwell Varco has built the first RTP manufacturing facility in the Kingdom, and it has the potential to be a tremendous hub for the GCC and MENA regions. All this is an opportunity to export nonmetallics with a “Made in Saudi Arabia” label.

Scientist at Aramco’s Research & Development Center – nonmetallic solutions
Our scientists at our Research & Development Center collaborate with international institutions to accelerate the development and deployment of nonmetallic solutions.

 

Nonmetallics and the future

We believe the growth, development, and application of nonmetallic materials has the potential to be transformational – not only within our own industry, but nonmetallic solutions will also have the opportunity to transform global economies. From applications in automotive and renewable industries, to city planning and urban development, the increasing demand for more cost effective, durable, sustainable, and longer-lasting materials will be significant.

Having identified this opportunity to diversify our downstream activities and expand into nonmetallics, we are now positioning ourselves to take advantage of the opportunities in this sector, influencing research and development, innovating new technologies and products, and collaborating with leading international research institutions.