June 2024

Aramco's upstream digital transformation helps illuminate the path toward excellence

Dr. Ashraf Al-Tahini / Saudi Aramco

With widespread recognition of the need to address emissions in the oil and gas sector, there has, perhaps, never been a greater need for innovation in our industry—which remains a notable driver of global economic development. At Aramco, we believe digital transformation has an important role to play and we aim to adapt next-generation digital solutions with the potential to shape the future of our industry.  

By harnessing advanced technologies, Aramco’s upstream business aims to revolutionize its operations, increase discovery and recovery rates, boost efficiency, generate cost savings and enhance reliability and safety, Fig. 1. In addition, it aims to contribute to the realization of Aramco’s ambitions to achieve net-zero Scope 1 and Scope 2 greenhouse gas emissions across our wholly-owned operated assets by 2050.  

Fig. 1. Through use of advanced technologies, Aramco’s upstream business is revolutionizing the firm’s operations, increasing discovery and recovery rates, boosting efficiency, generating cost savings and enhancing reliability and safety.


To help expedite the digitalization journey, a comprehensive digital program, LEAP, has been designed and launched, reflecting our steadfast commitment to technology advancement and innovation. LEAP is an acronym that summarizes the key focus areas of our upstream digital program. It stands for four important aspects of digital transformation: Lead Digital Strategy, Enable Technology, Accelerate Innovation, and Promote A Digital Culture. Through LEAP, we strive to leverage the power of data, technology and people to create new opportunities, generate value and drive more sustainable growth across the entire upstream value chain.  

Spanning four key domains integral to organizational success in digitalization, LEAP consists of a comprehensive strategy that aims to establish a clear digital vision and roadmap. LEAP simultaneously leverages advanced technologies, cultivates a culture of innovation through agility and partnerships, and promotes a digital ethos through upskilling and advocacy programs. Collectively, these combined elements function as the engine helping to propel our upstream digital progress to new levels of excellence. 


Aramco’s upstream digital and computing strategy serves as a long-term action plan for growth and success. Over the past several years, investments have been made in leading-edge technologies— including artificial intelligence (AI), machine learning and high-performance computing—streamlining our processes and boosting value creation. This forward-thinking approach required a modular architecture that enabled swift adaptation to emerging trends, ensuring that the technology stack is both robust and flexible, thereby maintaining a versatile and resilient digital infrastructure. This strategy laid the groundwork for ongoing digital transformation initiatives, helping to position Aramco at the forefront of the rapidly evolving technology landscape. 


Our pioneering digital arm—the Upstream Digital Center—helps navigate the ever-evolving technological landscape with precision and dedication to meeting changing business demands. Continuous dialog between teams, creative problem-solving methods, and agile development processes help to ensure the timely delivery of business-driven digital solutions. As a result of this synchronized digital harmony, Aramco has been able to identify areas where upstream digital transformation can have the most impact. These areas include optimizing production profiles, reducing energy consumption and improving supply chain efficiency. Through digital leadership, Aramco works to maintain its status as a source of dependable energy for the globe. 


To accelerate this transformation, Aramco established the Upstream Innovation Center (UIC), which brings together talent from diverse fields to harness digital technologies such as AI and immersive visualization, Fig. 2. Located in Dhahran, Saudi Arabia, the UIC serves as a powerhouse for disruptive thinking and collaboration, pushing the boundaries of what's possible in hydrocarbon discovery and recovery while reducing costs, and improving efficiencies and safety.  

Fig. 2. Aramco’s Upstream Innovation Center (UIC) in Dhahran brings together talent from diverse fields to harness digital technologies, such as AI and immersive visualization.

One notable example is the ongoing development of an AI-powered Large Language Model for the energy industry. It leverages generative AI capabilities to empower upstream professionals with intelligent advisories that allow them to interact with data like never before. This represents only a glimpse of the impact that upstream innovation at Aramco aims to generate. In addition, fostering strategic partnerships with premier professional societies, technology players, startups and esteemed academic institutions helps the company remain focused on emerging trends, enabling innovation to unlock new possibilities.  

At Aramco, the upstream focus on digital innovation is not just about pioneering new technologies—it aims to change the way of working and thinking, and helps to ensure that digital transformation is embedded in every step of the upstream value chain. 


At the heart of these efforts, the upstream digital transformation journey relies on its employees and their pursuit of excellence. Recognizing that innovation is a collective effort, Aramco cultivates an upstream environment that encourages creativity and collaboration.  

Regular hackathons, cross-functional teams and open forums create a melting pot of ideas and aim to ensure all employees feel like part of the company and integral contributors to its technological advancement, Fig. 3.  

Fig. 3. To ensure that employees feel like they are part of Aramco and are contributing to its technological advancement, regular hackathons, cross-functional teams and open forums are held to create a melting pot of ideas.

By empowering employees to take ownership of their work and providing them with opportunities to develop their skills, Aramco has created a culture of innovation that is important for the success of its digital transformation strategy. 


Aramco’s progressive upstream approach to digital transformation, which is encapsulated in its LEAP program, has helped position the company in the vanguard of digital innovation. A testament to this is the most recent third-party digital maturity assessment conducted by Gartner, which placed Aramco’s upstream business in the top quartile, compared to its industry peers.  

Additionally, Aramco's efforts to help reduce greenhouse gas emissions lend impetus to our digital transformation efforts, which we consider to be a key enabler of emission reduction. For example, digital technologies, such as AI, can help drive efficiencies and improve the monitoring and measurement of emissions. As our industry continues to evolve, Aramco’s upstream digital transformation aims to serve as a benchmark for other organizations embarking on their digitalization journey. 

By creating a culture of innovation, leveraging cutting-edge technologies, aligning digital efforts with business and fostering collaboration with partners, Aramco is helping to shape a digital future for the industry. As we navigate an ever-changing and increasingly sophisticated technological landscape, our focus on digital transformation aims to be a critical driver of future business growth.  

About the Authors
Dr. Ashraf Al-Tahini
Saudi Aramco
Dr. Ashraf Al-Tahini is manager of the Exploration and Petroleum Engineering Center-Advanced Research Center (EXPEC ARC) at Saudi Aramco, and is also CEO of Saudi Aramco Upstream Technology Company. Over the last 14 years at Saudi Aramco, he has held positions of increasing responsibility, focusing on operations related to upstream petroleum engineering. Dr. Al-Tahini holds a Bachelor’s degree in chemical engineering from King Fahd University of Petroleum & Minerals, and he also earned a Master’s degree and PhD, both in petroleum engineering, from University of Oklahoma. He is a member of World Oil’s Editorial Advisory Board.
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