Kuwait’s receptiveness to new technologyNovember 17, 2022
Karim Al-Sayed, managing director of SLB, talks to The Energy Year about challenges faced by Kuwait’s energy sector and the country’s receptiveness to new technology. SLB is a global technology company.
What are the main challenges in Kuwait’s energy sector?
The past few years have been challenging for the oil and gas sector because of the demand disruption, which translated into a considerable reduction in general oil and gas activities, including drilling and workover. Activities have started bouncing back since the start of 2022. In the past year, we have been awarded quite a significant number of contracts, most notably long-term contracts for the supply of artificial lift pumps – electric submersible pumps (ESP) and progressive cavity pumps (PCP) – in addition to wellheads. This year’s focus is to help KOC improve the efficiency of its operations, from drilling to managing production and all through digital oilfields to achieve Kuwait’s strategic goal of 4 million bopd production by 2040.
Kuwait possesses the reserves to reach this target, yet it must face several challenges, first and foremost of which is increasing drilling operations. Furthermore, like in most mature oilfields, Kuwait faces the problem of increased water production. We are working closely with KOC and Joint Operations (JO) on this matter, having already introduced some unique technologies in Burgan to help them treat water efficiently and quickly.
How receptive is Kuwait to new technological solutions?
Kuwait has consistently proven to be very receptive to introducing and implementing novel technology. Historically, SLB has often introduced its newest technologies and solutions within Kuwait thanks to KOC’s approach to technological innovation both regionally and globally. KOC devotes many resources to this dimension and continuously collaborates with their suppliers and contractors to tackle technological challenges.
What are the key projects you have been working on?
We recently introduced water treatment modular mini plants for deployment in Burgan, which are each designed to treat up to 75,000 barrels of water per day. Besides that, we are working tirelessly on the digital front. We are unique in Kuwait in this regard because we have set up a digital strategy with KOC for over a decade. Our petrotechnical consultants have worked closely with KOC for the past 20-30 years, and we are thus ready to go to the next level: integrating the digital aspect into the actual field operations. We are doing this in the Jurassic field, which we aim to make the first digitally integrated field in the world once completed. The Jurassic project began in 2010 and started the first digital oilfield development in the region.
The Jurassic project will go beyond a standard digital gas field, namely data and insights collection, to become an intelligent oilfield using digital technologies to drive cost efficiencies, optimisation, efficiency and production targets. This cutting-edge digital gasfield will integrate all the production operations by linking the subsurface with the facilities through full automation, AI, and instrumentation. It is an essential priority for KOC and KPC, and we expect great results to materialise soon.
What are the company’s latest developments in terms of sustainability?
SLB is at the forefront of sustainable solutions in the energy industry. We have recently relaunched our new brand, and we are committed to enable the industry to become net zero in accordance with the COP26 goals. Globally, we have been expanding our technology investments, enabling decarbonisation in the industry, and expanding to five focus areas – carbon solutions, geothermal, critical minerals, energy storage and hydrogen.
A number of these have been deployed in the region, and we are looking to expand in Kuwait. Here in Kuwait, we work with KOC and KPC primarily on the decarbonisation of our operations, with a strong focus on water operations. Having different technologies, we can vary water filtration depending on the desired application. For instance, in Burgan, we treat the water and then reinject it to increase production instead of dumping it or bringing more water from elsewhere.
In North Kuwait oil fields, we are executing a project on associated water, converting it into steam to lift the heavy oil. The rest of the water would then be directed toward public use, that is, to distribute water to camps and possibly agricultural use in northern Kuwait. Not only does this save money, but it is of strategic importance for the country as it is desertic and water is scarce.
We are also working with the Ministry of Electricity & Water & Renewable Energy to assist the government with developing solar and wind power plants. Specifically, we are assessing the applicability and scalability of a new technology to store the energy generated from these renewable sources, and we are already testing this technology in Saudi Arabia and Oman.
We also have implemented another project in Burgan, consisting of installing permanent solar-powered gauges on 30 wells. Through the gauges, the wells transmit the data to the KOC digital centre for real-time monitoring. It is an innovative and environmentally friendly project as opposed to the standard industry practice, which relies on generators to power the gauges. We are looking at expanding this application further.
How is SLB contributing to the Kuwaitisation process?
Not only are we fully aligned and in synchrony with the Kuwaitisation programme, but we have already made significant steps towards its implementation. SLB has been employing Kuwaitis for over 30 years, and today, about 35% of our employees are locals. We have been long collaborating with universities in the country to encourage the youth to find jobs in the private sector. We train the top 10 students and provide them with job opportunities immediately. We are now going beyond this, extending these collaborations to technical institutes.
Additionally, we introduced the Hackathon programme last year, having already implemented it in multiple countries. It is about developing talents. 200 people participated last year and had to address five challenges related to digitalisation. We will replicate the same programme this year in collaboration with the government. We already have 400 applicants across the whole industry in Kuwait.
What are SLB’s key objectives going forward?
Completing the digital oilfield is of utmost priority for us and for Kuwait. Once this becomes operational, it will become the standard way of doing things and be extended to a larger scale. Another focus is to continue our national talent development in order to achieve 60% of our management team being Kuwaiti by 2025. Another goal is to help Kuwait introduce novel technologies beyond drilling efficiency and to make existing technology, such as water management techniques, scalable.
Finally, in line with COP26 and now COP27, we want to address the challenge of the carbon emissions of oil and gas operations here in Kuwait. As a company, we are committed to the 2050 zero-emission target, a goal we share with KOC and for which we are working together. Looking at the future, SLB wants to go beyond oil and gas, aiming to become an energy solutions partner that offers its clients advanced solutions to diversify their energy production and decarbonise their activities.