You have a massive budget allocated for R&D in Qatar. Can you tell us about where these funds are being used?
Qatar Shell Research and Technology Centre (QSRTC) is the newest addition to Shell’s research and development (R&D) global network, connected with other Shell research facilities in Amsterdam, Houston, Hamburg, Oman and Bangalore. The QSRTC team collaborates with scientists from across this global research network, helping to contribute to the Energy and Environment pillar of the Qatar National Research Strategy (QNRS). Our local technology strategy is reviewed annually to identify innovative research that can be brought to Qatar to support the future needs of industry and the country as a whole. Where possible, we pursue commercialisation of technologies through joint ventures and partnerships.
Ahead of the publication of the updated QNRS in 2012, we underpinned all research activities to two key themes – ‘Energy and Environment’ – encompassing three programmes:
- Unlocking the subsurface
- Breakthrough products and
- Water solutions.
Tell us more about these primary areas of focus at QSRTC currently.
Energy and environment
At Shell, we harness human ingenuity, innovation and technology to extract hydrocarbons efficiently from under the ground, while aiming to limit our impact on the environment by transforming gas, hydrocarbon liquids and waste streams into new, environmentally-responsible products for society. For Shell, the start-up of Pearl GTL [gas-to-liquids plants, in 2011] was the culmination of more than three decades of research, the filing of around 3,500 GTL-related patents and the development of some of the world’s most advanced cobalt synthesis catalysts, the next generation of which are being tested here in QSRTC.
“Qatar Shell recently launched the first in a series of annual workshops at QSRTC, known as the Qatar Shell Dialogues, bringing together industry, government and academia to discuss challenges within the local energy industry.”
Qatar Shell Research and Technology Center
Unlocking the subsurface
Qatar’s subsurface holds tremendous potential for oil, gas and water reserves. Developing and deploying innovative technologies to help Qatar unlock these resources is a major focus area for our research at QSRTC, with two ongoing major R&D programmes. In partnership with seismic experts PGS, Shell has developed a batteryless fibre-optic seismic technology, designed to provide a safer, more cost-effective method to deliver more accurate and higher-quality seismic data for exploration and permanent production monitoring. After three years of collaborative research, Shell successfully completed the pilot-testing of the new seismic system in the North of Qatar. The collected data has been analysed at QSRTC using state-of-the-art data processing, imaging and visualisation techniques, with very encouraging results.
Qatar’s National Vision 2030 encourages the personal and professional development of Qatari citizens through education, enrichment experiences and career opportunities. Shell’s goal is to broaden Qatar’s research capacity, and we are committed to helping young people discover the many rewarding career possibilities that are available to them in a field critical to Qatar’s vision of a knowledge-based economy. As such, QSRTC works to attract, train and retain young talent.
Engaging with key institutions
QSRTC’s outreach and university collaboration team work to position Shell as an active partner in supporting universities and other education institutes in Qatar. We do this by integrating with local universities and institutions, with whom Shell enjoys close relationships, to share our skills and expertise, thereby effectively linking our scientists with academic experts and students. In 2013, Qatar University (QU) and QSRTC signed a Memorandum of Understanding that consolidated numerous collaborations, in which QSRTC will sponsor and support the educational programmes on offer at QU. We now also share industrial and technical knowledge with QU faculty and students and facilitate greater collaboration through expert lectures, internships, competitions, awards and the recruitment of QU students.
QSRTC also signed a Memorandum of Understanding with Texas A&M University to strengthen a partnership already spanning ten years in the fields of technology, science, research and development. This relationship has already yielded numerous productive initiatives, including the Aviation Fuel Consortium, the GTL Jet Fuel Program, a research collaboration evaluating Thiopave, and the Shell Ec0-marathon Competition.
The energy industry has a vital role to play in helping to shape a knowledge economy in Qatar as it works towards building the national capacity required to establish it as a global R&D hub. QSRTC is wholly committed to supporting this vision and direction as an active member of the energy sector and a long-term partner of Qatar Petroleum. We demonstrate this commitment through our various thought leadership initiatives.
One of these is the Qatar Shell Dialogues. Qatar Shell recently launched the first in a series of annual workshops at QSRTC, known as the Qatar Shell Dialogues, bringing together industry, government and academia to discuss challenges within the local energy industry. Our first workshop sought to provide solutions to the question – How can the energy industry help build the national capacity needed to establish an R&D hub in Qatar?
The GTL Jet Fuel Workshop is another such initiative. Qatar Shell gathered aviation industry leaders to explore the latest developments in GTL jet fuel research. The QSRTC team shared the outcomes and data of this world-class research programme, providing insights gained during three years of R&D through a research consortium with participants from Qatar Shell, Qatar Science and Techonology Park, Qatar Airways, Qatar Petroleum, Airbus, Rolls-Royce plc and Woqod.
Tell us a little about the Innovation Open House you hosted last year.
The Shell Innovation Open House showcased innovative deployment of cutting-edge technologies that provide solutions to the world’s energy needs. The event featured key members of the energy industry, academia and the R&D community including Faisal Al Suwaidi, President of R&D at Qatar Foundation, and Wael Sawan, Managing Director and Chairman of Qatar Shell. During the Innovation Open House, HE Dr Mohamed bin Saleh Al-Sada, Minister of Energy and Industry, inaugurated a new research and development water laboratory at QSRTC.
What kind of research are you hoping to carry out at the Water Research and Development Lab?
The energy sector, like others, is becoming increasingly concerned about water use as it becomes scarcer globally. New approaches and advanced technologies are helping us to reduce the amount of water we need for our operations, and find innovative ways to reuse and recycle water from industrial processes. Pearl GTL’s industrial water processing plant is the world’s largest site for the recovery, treating and reusing of industrial process water. With a capacity to treat 280,000 barrels of water a day, the water treatment facility is comparable in size to a plant for a town of 140,000 people. Once cleaned and treated, this water is reused and recycled for cooling and for steam systems, whilst a small amount is also used to maintain the bushes and shrubs around the plant. The water laboratory will provide technical support to Shell and Qatar Petroleum, especially to the Pearl GTL plant, to continuously improve efficiency, robustness and reliability and potentially reduce the footprint of water treatment within the plant, including an anaerobic bio-treatment testing facility at QSRTC staffed by leading water research scientists. In partnership with the Ministry of Environment, QSRTC runs an experimental farm at Rawdat Al Faras in Qatar, evaluating the potential for industrial water to be used to sustain plant growth.
What stage has your Carbon Capture and Storage research reached?
Since 2008, Shell and Qatar Petroleum have been working on a $70 million, 10-year research collaboration, in conjunction with the UK’s Imperial College, London and Qatar Science and Technology Park, to better understand Qatar’s subsurface through the injection of CO2 into carbonate reservoirs. This fundamental research is important in understanding the potential for sequestration or improved hydrocarbon recovery, and will also deliver insights into many other aspects of carbonate hydrocarbon systems.
Qatari doctorate researchers are already working on this laboratory-based project in London, and since 2013 an increasing proportion of the research has been conducted at QSRTC and QP’s Research and Technology Centre. Source: Qatar Today Magazine