Saudi Aramco CEO addresses Science and Technology in Society Forum

Minasan, konnichi wa, and good morning ladies and gentlemen. Let me begin by thanking Sir William Castell for his kind introduction, and Mr. Koji Omi for bringing us together to address humanity’s pressing challenges.

One of our greatest challenges – and a most promising opportunity as well – is providing a secure and sustainable supply of energy for generations to come. Meeting that challenge will require all the ingenuity our scientists, researchers, and engineers can muster.

Today, less than one-third of the world’s seven billion people consume more than two-thirds of the world’s primary energy supplies. In the future, however, we will need to satisfy much greater energy demand, given that by 2050 there will be another two billion people on the planet and the global economy will be three or even four times its current size.

So how do we meet the needs of nine billion people, especially if each is to enjoy ready access to clean energy and with it economic prosperity? We can certainly moderate demand growth through energy efficiency measures. Yet they alone are not enough. We will need, in my view, a stable, secure, and diverse supply of energy from all sources: with oil and gas at the core, complemented by coal, nuclear, hydro, and a gradually increasing role for renewables. But each of these essential energy sources has hurdles that only the scientific community can overcome.

That’s because an optimal energy mix must fulfill and balance what I call the “Three As” of Adequacy, Affordability and Acceptability. Our challenge is not simply to develop more energy supplies but also make them more cost effective and cleaner. Ladies and gentlemen, the key to this is revolutionary, game-changing technologies across all energy sources.

Let me briefly share some examples of what we’re doing at Saudi Aramco within multiple technology domains to support the Three A’s.

First, adequacy. The earth is blessed with abundant resources of fossil energy. But finding and economically recovering more oil and gas in increasingly difficult environments calls for more rigorous exploration of physics and chemistry, and not just the depths of the Earth. For example, being a leader in land seismic and high fidelity reservoir modeling and simulation technologies, we have integrated electromagnetics and high-resolution gravity sensors with seismic imaging to better describe the subsurface, while moving to apply high performance computing across the board. These transformative tools, among many others, should allow us to locate additional hydrocarbon resources and increase recovery of conventional oil in place to 70 percent – more than double the current world average.

Second, many of our technology programs are designed to maximize the value we extract from the molecule, which will contribute to energy affordability. We want to move to cleaner, synergistic fuel-engine systems with substantially higher mileage efficiency. One such effort is advanced engine combustion modes using fuels like naphtha, which are easier to manufacture and therefore cheaper. In fact, we recently demonstrated that with small tweaks to the engine, a modern diesel car can run on naphtha rather than high cetane diesel fuel – a world first.

Third, acceptability. To mitigate the environmental impact of fossil fuels, we’re pursuing a broad-based, long-term carbon management program targeting both fixed and mobile sources of carbon emissions. The Carbon Capture and Storage approach, which addresses major emitting sources such as coal-fired power plants, is crucial to managing global carbon emissions. Even when it comes to more challenging mobile sources, we recently demonstrated an early stage prototype vehicle that captures CO2 using a high-temperature sorbent.

But our efforts also target our company’s manufacturing processes, and to further lighten our environmental footprint, we are striving to completely eliminate industrial emissions and discharges from our oil and gas production activities, by fully recycling water and industrial waste.

While we are proud of these efforts and the other steps we’re taking to fulfill the Three As, we recognize that no company can or should go it alone.

To that end, Saudi Aramco is multiplying its funding for in-house research and development while forming world-class strategic alliances as part of our open network innovation strategy, and also establishing satellite research centers across the globe. In addition our venture capital subsidiary has begun investing in pioneering tech companies.

Ladies and gentlemen, I am a firm believer in collaborative research throughout the industry, crossing disciplinary and organizational boundaries, because the full capacity of the scientific community must be unleashed to recover more fossil fuels and make them greener… to make nuclear power plants safer and better dispose of their spent fuel…and to enhance the economic viability and competitiveness of alternatives and renewables. In fact, there’s no reason why – working together – we shouldn’t target fourfold improvements in vehicle mileage over the long-term, or aim for CO2 emissions up to ten times lower for every unit of output.

My friends, these are all bold targets. In fact, they require technology to challenge accepted wisdom and redefine what’s possible. That’s why we are extending our hand to you in the spirit of collaboration and cooperation. We’re asking you to join us on a noble quest to enable billions of our fellow human beings to access the adequate, affordable and acceptable energy you and I are accustomed to, and which they too need and deserve.

Thank you, and arigatou gozaimasu.