“The government is empowering the private sector to enhance its contribution to the development of the country.”

Samira Al Sayed OMAR Director General KUWAIT INSTITUTE FOR SCIENTIFIC RESEARCH

Technological growth in Kuwait

April 5, 2018

Samira Al Sayed Omar, director-general of the Kuwait Institute for Scientific Research (KISR), talks to TOGY about the institute’s R&D and partnerships in the energy industry, its role in Kuwait’s target of a 15% share for renewables and recent activities such as the Shagaya power project. KISR is an independent public organisation that partners with companies such as KOC on advances in energy technology.

• On patents and marketing: “KISR is also getting more involved in patenting and commercialising the innovations/products  and know-how that it has developed. We are reaching out to the private sector to get private companies interested in commercialising our products.”

• On corrosion: “[Corrosion is] an area considered vital to the oil and gas sector. KISR activities in this area focus on the long-term innovative research of direct benefits to the industry as well as technical services that address the immediate materials technology needs of the sector.”

Most TOGY interviews are published exclusively on our business intelligence platform TOGYiN, but you can find the full interview with Samira Al Sayed Omar below.

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What are the institute’s activities in the oil and gas industry?
KISR’s R&D and technology capability is organised into four research centres, namely Petroleum, Water, Energy and Building, and Environment and Life Sciences. As an institute, KISR activities in the oil and gas sector span not only the upstream and downstream areas but also to the cross-cutting areas such as health, safety, environment and sustainability, water management of oilfields, environmental management, corrosion management and renewables and energy efficiency.
Our relationship with the oil sector goes back to the early days when KISR was first established in 1967. KISR at that time dedicated a specialised organisational unit to address the R&D requirements of the oil and gas sector. The unit evolved from a department in the early days to the Petroleum, Petrochemicals and Materials Division in the 1980s and 1990s, then to the Petroleum Research Center in 2013, following KISR’s restructuring.
Two important developments have taken place lately within the oil and gas sector. These included the decision by KPC to establish an R&D centre, KPC Kuwait International Petroleum Research Center (KIPRC), and its adoption of a research and technology (R&T) strategy. These developments have provided KISR an enabling platform to align its strategy directly with the priorities identified in the KPC R&T Strategy.
In addition, we have recently been approached by KPC and we both expressed our interest in establishing a strategic partnership given KISR’s extensive R&D experience and expertise in petroleum and petrochemicals.
Currently, we are in the process of developing our next five-year strategic plan, which starts in 2020 and runs to 2025. This is KISR’s ninth strategic plan, and we are working hand in hand with KPC to align our strategy with KPC’s 2040 road map and hope to extend it beyond 2025. We decided that it is important for KISR to identify where our institute should focus its research without duplicating the efforts of KPC, since KPC is interested in having its own research centre as well.
At the moment, we see that KISR’s downstream experience holds more potential for us to support and complement KPC’s work, but we also have strengths in some upstream niche areas, as well as in corrosion, and KPC agrees. Also, KPC has expressed interest in renewable energy, water resources and the environment.
We believe that collaboration is important, and especially that KISR has the local experience. We have spent decades conducting R&D activities to solve problems that KPC faces, so we are very much aware of these problems and challenges. For instance, our experience in corrosion and developing polymers and catalysts can contribute to resolving some of the oil and gas sector’s problems. We have good contracts with KOC and we would like to continue conducting R&D activities, providing consultations and technical services and helping in the analyses of their data. We are with them currently preparing a KPC/KISR collaboration agreement in the form of a win-win partnership to work together utilising the best skills from both parties to support the development of R&D strategies and meet the objectives of KPC’s 2040 road map.     

Who are your main partners in the industry?
KPC and its subsidiaries are our key partners. The private sector, particularly the petrochemicals sector, is also involved in the implementation of R&D outputs. The institute, KISR activities in the oil and gas sector span not only the upstream and downstream areas but also to the cross-cutting areas such as health, safety, environment and sustainability, water management of oilfields, environmental management, corrosion management and renewables and energy efficiency.
Our relationship with the oil sector goes back to the early days when KISR was first established in 1967. KISR at that time dedicated a specialised organisational unit to address the R&D requirements of the oil and gas sector. The unit evolved from a department in the early days to the Petroleum, Petrochemicals and Materials Division in the 1980s and 1990s, then to the Petroleum Research Center in 2013, following KISR’s restructuring.
Two important developments have taken place lately within the oil and gas sector. These included the decision by KPC to establish an R&D centre, KPC Kuwait International Petroleum Research Center (KIPRC), and its adoption of a research and technology (R&T) strategy. These developments have provided KISR an enabling platform to align its strategy directly with the priorities identified in the KPC R&T Strategy.
In addition, we have recently been approached by KPC and we both expressed our interest in establishing a strategic partnership given KISR’s extensive R&D experience and expertise in petroleum and petrochemicals.
Currently, we are in the process of developing our next five-year strategic plan, which starts in 2020 and runs to 2025. This is KISR’s ninth strategic plan, and we are working hand in hand with KPC to align our strategy with KPC’s 2040 road map and hope to extend it beyond 2025.
We decided that it is important for KISR to identify where our institute should focus its research without duplicating the efforts of KPC, since KPC is interested in having its own research centre as well.
At the moment, we see that KISR’s downstream experience holds more potential for us to support and complement KPC’s work, but we also have strengths in some upstream niche areas, as well as in corrosion, and KPC agrees. Also, KPC has expressed interest in renewable energy, water resources and the environment.
We believe that collaboration is important, and especially that KISR has the local experience. We have spent decades conducting R&D activities to solve problems that KPC faces, so we are very much aware of these problems and challenges. For instance, our experience in corrosion and developing polymers and catalysts can contribute to resolving some of the oil and gas sector’s problems. We have good contracts with KOC and we would like to continue conducting R&D activities, providing consultations and technical services and helping in the analyses of their data. We are with them currently preparing a KPC/KISR collaboration agreement in the form of a win-win partnership to work together utilising the best skills from both parties to support the development of R&D strategies and meet the objectives of KPC’s 2040 road map.     

Who are your main partners in the industry?
KPC and its subsidiaries are our key partners. The private sector, particularly the petrochemicals sector, is also involved in the implementation of R&D outputs. The government is empowering the private sector to enhance its contribution to the development of the country, whether in industrial, social, economic, information, education development or other areas.
KISR is also getting more involved in patenting and commercialising the innovations/products  and know-how that it has developed. We are reaching out to the private sector to get private companies interested in commercialising our products.
An example is the potential for three spin-off companies, active in areas including bottling of beach wells fresh water, tissue cultures of date palms, indigenous plants and potential agriculture produce, and oil and gas technical services. We expect to expand to food security items such as fish and shrimp aquaculture and functional foods.

How would you rank the importance of the institute’s R&D output to oil and gas activities?
Research is part of development. It’s the best way to reduce costs – by applying technologies that prove their suitability in the various environmental conditions. We do feasibility studies of the technology and develop the know-how.
In recent years, KISR has made major contributions to the oil and gas industry. To mention just a few, these include:

 Developed and transferred oil well water injection technology, increasing the recovery factor for the Greater Burgan, Sabriyah, and Wafra oilfields by 10-15%
 Improved performance of catalysts in hydrodesulphurisation units in KNPC refineries
• Reduced material losses and plant shutdowns through advanced corrosion analysis
• Core analysis of oil wells
 Developed oil well petrochemical specialty products
 Advanced petroleum characterisation techniques to optimise refinery operations

 

KISR also provides services to the private sector and the oil and gas companies. This is important because they can use KISR standards and local procedures, which are enforced by the Kuwait Environment Public Authority [EPA]. The companies have to abide by these rules, and need local organisations that are aware of and follow these rules, such as KISR.
KISR is categorised as category A under the EPA for environmental assessments. Any private-sector entity that wants to establish a factory or commercial production needs an environmental impact assessment, which we provide. Our prices are cheap because we are partially subsidised by the government. We have the experts, the facilities, the laboratory and the supplies, so we charge minimally compared to other organisations.
So, for example, companies have to survey the land and the environment if they want to build a factory, and KISR can do these surveys. We prepare a strategy to mitigate any byproducts produced by the factory and we give them recommendations.

Could you elaborate on how KISR supports the downstream sector?
KISR already has a good collaboration with KNPC. This collaboration aims to support Kuwait’s oil and gas industry in developing new refined products and extending the throughput and flexibility of Kuwait’s refining activities. It also addresses the optimisation of the petroleum refining processes in dealing with increased ultra-heavy crude oil production with the challenge of increasing the conversion of feedstock of liquid hydrocarbon resources into clean transportation fuels to meet higher fuel regulations.
In addition, KISR activities in the petrochemicals area focus on polymeric products enhancement and customisation to further develop the downstream polymer processing industry in Kuwait. We need not forget corrosion, an area considered vital to the oil and gas sector. KISR activities in this area focus on the long-term innovative research of direct benefits to the industry as well as technical services that address the immediate materials technology needs of the sector.
KISR already has a good collaboration with KNPC in petrochemicals to improve products. We also work on the corrosion problem with them, whether in production or transportation of oil to KNPC areas.
KISR also provides the know-how and remediation technologies for the decontamination of several of the K-companies’ facilities and grounds. We provide know-how and remediation regarding contaminated materials. In many KOC areas they dump waste, whether water or oil, in landfills and pits. This pollutes the environment. KNPC approached KISR for the remediation of their contaminated soil, so we developed bio-remediation and completed this project for them. Now they are interested in renewable energy.

There is a lot of interest in Kuwait in energy consumption and renewables. Could you talk about KISR’s involvement in renewable energy projects?
KISR has executed numerous projects for the oil and gas sector as well as the private sector for the promotion of renewable energy, mostly photovoltaic [PV]. However, execution of the Shagaya renewable energy mega-project, which is going to be completed in 2018, is considered a landmark. We now produce more than 10 MW from wind and 10 MW from PV, and soon will produce 50 MW from CSP [concentrated solar power].
All of this is under a pilot test scenario. We are testing which scenario would be best for Kuwait based on the local conditions assessment. We were very surprised to find out that wind yielded better results than solar. It’s producing more than the required 10 MW. Shagaya is now considered the best project in the world for wind energy. This is due to Kuwait’s location, given that it is an open-platform landscape. Most of the prevailing wind is from the northwest and the wind gets very strong during the summer months.
We are analysing the data to develop a master plan and different scenarios in order to provide recommendations to the government. That being said, PV is also showing a good outcome. All of this should be considered by the next phase’s end-user, KOC. We expect that they are more interested in solar, but they haven’t decided yet on the wind. CSP is viable, but it’s more expensive and it uses storage. We are assessing the need for this long-term.

What is the institute’s role in Kuwait reaching a 15% share for renewable energy by 2030?
KISR originally proposed three phases to reach the 15%. Phase one was the Shagaya project. Phase two is to produce 1 GW. Phase three is to produce 2 GW. The sites for these new phases are already assigned in the same area.
The Shagaya project is not solely used for the development of solar and wind energy, but the infrastructure is also in place to develop a local visitor and training centre. KOC or whoever wants to be responsible for phases two and three will use our facilities as well. The plan is to continue our partnership and collaboration with the oil and gas sector, especially in the renewable energy area.

How is KISR contributing to the New Kuwait 2035 vision?
The linkage between KISR and the 2035 Kuwait vision is evident. Kuwait’s National Development Plan calls for the establishment of a regional financial hub, growth of the private-sector economy and an enhancement of the quality of life for its citizens.
Science and technology play an important role in building private enterprises but this requires a stronger foundation upon which to build. KISR will lead in this endeavour and will actively contribute to enhancing Kuwait’s competitiveness in science and technology that will underpin the diversification of the economy.
As for renewable energy, as it is important component of the energy mix, KISR has laid the foundation for developing and promoting renewable energy in the country. We developed the experience and have the expertise in this area. We developed a new generation of scientists that can take responsibility and support all the technical needs.
We are the technical arm for any organisation that requires technical support in this area. This is how we look at ourselves. There is a practical implementation of the technologies onsite and organisations can learn from it. We can give them the best recommendations to go forward and meet their 2035 targets.

Could you describe KISR’s recent activities?
I am very pleased to announce that KISR has been designated as the Secretariat of the National Committee for Science, Technology and Innovation. The committee is responsible for developing the National STI Policies and overseeing their implementation. We proposed this to the Council of Ministers and right now we are dealing with the legal issues. We will announce it very soon. KISR will lead in developing policies related to research, development, innovation and science.
At the level of the institute, the completions of projects, such as Shagaya and the environmental rehabilitation of the Kuwaiti desert among several others, are considered major undertakings and important achievements at the national level.
I have also exerted extensive efforts to support, as a technical arm, the activities of KDIPA [Kuwait Direct Investment Promotion Authority], including working with the private sector to market our products and the technologies we have developed. So far, this is moving very smoothly and we expect good results in marketing our research outcomes.
In addition, KISR is presently working with KDIPA and is close to completing a strategic national project to assess and make recommendations on how Kuwait can improve its global competitiveness ranking and sustain it, the result of which will directly feed into the 2035 Kuwait vision objectives and its ensuing current five-year development plan.
KISR has also developed advanced versions of macro-econometric and computable general equilibrium models that support the Supreme Council for Planning and Development efforts to develop the next five-year development plan.
As for the oil and gas sector, KISR has just completed a high-profile project in collaboration with KNPC R&T and international licensors in investigating the potential catalyst system, performance and lifecycle, as well as product quality (ultra low-sulphur diesel) for hydro-treating of heavy feedstock to be used for the new KNPC refinery that is being built for the refining of heavy oil.
In addition, KISR has lately registered several patents that serve the oil sector, including a method for synthesising nano-diamonds that will be applied for drilling to cut down on the material erosion and optimise the drilling process, gelling agents for water shutoff and sand fixing polymers for oil and gas wells.

Can you elaborate upon what the current needs are in developing human capital in the market, and how KISR’s training programme is helping to address these? Is the demand for local specialists or experts growing now that KPC is expanding its oil output capacity and growing downstream capabilities?
KISR contributed to the development of technical capabilities of KPC’s and its subsidiaries’  workforce through the formation of joint research teams, and the organisation of specialised training courses, workshops and conferences. KISR staff also participated in numerous events organised by the oil sector and contributed to the enrichment of scientific debate.
KISR will continue supporting KPC and its subsidiaries through mentoring of its technical staff, conducting joint R&D activities, on-the-job training of KPC’s staff, secondment of KISR technical staff to KIPRC, and conducting training courses and convening of joint technical workshops as per the sector’s needs.
KISR has a well-established training centre and a reputed annual training program that comprise more than 70 courses. These courses span specialised technical disciplines, computer and information technology and management and administration. KISR will work to align its training programme with KPC’s requirements for capacity building in line with KPC/KISR’s new strategic partnership objectives.
Meanwhile, KISR has already been co-ordinating with KPC to share its laboratories, pilot plants and research facilities and to train KPC’s staff on specific methodologies/techniques/analyses etc. in an effort to optimise the utilisation of the limited available R&D resources in the country. We will keep working with KPC and its subsidiaries to further cultivate the spirit of co-operation in an effort to achieve the national development goals.

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