Saudi Energy Exhibit celebrates 60 years of ‘making facts fun’

For the past six decades, the oil and energy exhibit has attracted thousands of visitors, from students to world leaders. (Instagram/Ithra)
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For the past six decades, the oil and energy exhibit has attracted thousands of visitors, from students to world leaders. (Instagram/Ithra)
Saudi Energy Exhibit celebrates 60 years of ‘making facts fun’
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Photo from a recent panel discussing the 60th anniversary of the Energy Exhibit. (Supplied)
Saudi Energy Exhibit celebrates 60 years of ‘making facts fun’
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Temporary building for the Aramco Oil Exhibit Center in Dhahran, September 1986. (Supplied)
Saudi Energy Exhibit celebrates 60 years of ‘making facts fun’
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Saudi Energy Exhibit celebrates 60 years of ‘making facts fun’
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Saudi Energy Exhibit celebrates 60 years of ‘making facts fun’
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Saudi Energy Exhibit celebrates 60 years of ‘making facts fun’
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Saudi Energy Exhibit celebrates 60 years of ‘making facts fun’
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Updated 02 September 2023
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Saudi Energy Exhibit celebrates 60 years of ‘making facts fun’

For the past six decades, the oil and energy exhibit has attracted thousands of visitors, from students to world leaders.
  • Dhahran drawcard digs deep into the past — but with an eye to the future

DHAHRAN: The Energy Exhibit, formerly the Oil Exhibit, celebrates its 60th anniversary this year as one of the Kingdom’s premier attractions, a space dedicated to making “facts fun” — and all without asking visitors to pay a penny to enter.

For the past six decades, the exhibit has showcased the knowledge and techniques behind the extraction of oil and related energy resources in Saudi Arabia, attracting thousands of visitors, ranging from young students to world leaders, every year.

At its headquarters, located on top of the Dammam field where oil was discovered in the Kingdom in 1938, the exhibit offers 40 programs throughout the year — a perfect juxtaposition of the old and the new.




For the past six decades, the oil and energy exhibit has attracted thousands of visitors, from students to world leaders. (Instagram/Ithra)

From the start, the space catered mostly to the youth. Each year, between 30,000 and 50,000 students from local towns and villages across the Eastern Province visit as part of the site’s educational program.

Fuad Al-Therman, a senior manager with Saudi Aramco and former director of King Abdulaziz Center for World Culture, told Arab News that in the early years of the project, the visit for many students was a “transformative moment in their lives and the inspiration for what to pursue in the future.”

Some chose science and energy-related studies, becoming engineers and scientists, and subsequently making their own contributions to the growth and development of Aramco and the Kingdom, he said.

HIGHLIGHTS

• The Energy Exhibit is located on top of the Dammam field where oil was discovered in the Kingdom in 1938.

• It offers 40 informative and educational programs throughout the year.

The journey that eventually brought the exhibition to Dhahran actually began outside the Kingdom. In 1955, Aramco took part in the Saudi Pavilion in the annual Damascus International Fair, the largest trade exhibition in the Arab World at the time. The company’s display generated so much interest that it returned the following year.

Shortly after, Aramco planned a large-scale exhibition that would travel around the Kingdom as part of an outreach program. The “Mobile Oil Industry Exhibit Project” was produced in collaboration with Sheikh Abdullah Al-Tariki, who later became Saudi Arabia’s first oil minister.




Local school children take the Aramco bus to visit the Saudi Aramco Oil Exhibit Center, October 1990. (Supplied)

The mobile exhibit was launched in Jeddah in late 1957, and for two months hosted almost 2,000 people daily from Saturday to Thursday, and 5,000 on Fridays. The exhibit went on to host 49 separate events in Saudi cities, including Makkah and Taif, with people from neighboring towns and villages traveling to witness the offerings.

For many visitors from remote parts of the Kingdom, the exhibit was the first time that they had seen a film on screen.

Given the popularity of the traveling exhibit, Aramco decided to establish a permanent facility near its headquarters in Dhahran. In 1963, Prince Abdul Mohsen bin Jalawy, acting Prince of the Eastern Region, inaugurated the “Oil Industry Exhibit.”




For the past six decades, the oil and energy exhibit has attracted thousands of visitors, from students to world leaders. (Instagram/Ithra)

In 1987, the space moved to its current location, with eight pavilions outlining the history of the Kingdom’s oil industry, including drilling, production and reservoir management, refineries and transport network.

The late Ismail Nawwab, Aramco’s general manager of public affairs at the time, helped transform the exhibit into an interactive educational center, shaping a new vision for the project.

With instructions in Arabic and English, interactive spaces have been inclusive and immersive from the first day. Exhibits use the latest technology to showcase the history of oil exploration, discovery and production — a journey that began with the formation of oil in shallow oceans millions of years ago.




Fuad Al-Therman, Saudi Aramco senior manager

Al-Therman recalls British Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher visiting in 1991, as well as dozens of global personalities and leaders.

“The exhibit brings out the child in them; they become curious and playful, even if they are heads of states or prime ministers. It’s worth noting that the exhibition has been described as one of the best places in the world to learn about the fundamentals of the energy industry. The operating team has always been in search of new ways to excite visitors and present its content,” he said.

“I remember 20 years ago when the ‘Energy to the World’ film was introduced at the exhibition theater, using 3D film technology. Visitors were given special glasses to watch the movie. It was an exciting experience for them to see things in a way they hadn’t experienced before.”

In essence, the place where the black gold or hydrocarbon energy was produced is now a place to produce human and creative energy.

Fuad Al-Therman, Saudi Aramco senior manager

The design of the space, overseen by Saudi architect Zuhair Fayez, reflected a modern spirit that integrated Arabic and Islamic identity.

“It is a historically significant building. When the renewal project was conceived in 2008, it was given careful consideration, and efforts were made on how to modernize the facility, yet retain its defining features, thereby ensuring continuity and change within both the architecture and the upgrade project,” Al-Therman said.

One of the events still remembered by the local community was the 1997 “Dinosaur Exhibition,” which attracted more than half a million visitors during a five-week run.




For the past six decades, the oil and energy exhibit has attracted thousands of visitors, from students to world leaders. (Supplied)

By 1999, the Aramco exhibit was drawing an average of 200,000 visitors per year with offerings that included an aquarium with colored fish and coral reefs; an elevator-like “terrascope” that simulated travel between geological layers; and a simulation of a giant oil tanker explaining shipping and unloading operations.

In 2010, the exhibition space was temporarily shuttered for renovations while Ithra was being built. The following year, the facility morphed once again, becoming a full-fledged science center focusing not only on oil and gas, but all energy.

To reflect its newfound mission, the name was changed to the Energy Exhibit.

As with Ithra, architects worked to ensure harmony with the surrounding topography. Instead of the original Oil Exhibit’s dark brown granite facade, the building’s exterior featured a lighter stone palette that matched the sand in the area. The new building opened in 2017 to coincide with the soft opening of Ithra.

Today, visitors often begin their tour in the exploration area, where they can discover how oil was formed tens of millions of years ago on the ocean floor.

In the next hall, visitors learn about oil exploration techniques. Later, a hall with a floating globe illustrates how tectonic plates moved long ago to form continents and oceans. Visitors are then transported to the modern era, where they can see the first geologists and their Saudi guides pinpointing locations to begin exploration and drilling operations.

It is a tale of the land and the people who worked it.

Visitors touring the space today can learn about oil treatment plants, refineries, gas plants, marine platforms, and the numerous petrochemical products such as plastics and textiles. Instructions are available in English and Arabic, with experts ready to answer any questions.

This year, Ithra celebrates five years since its official opening in 2018. At a recent gathering, the previous generation of leaders who worked on the various iterations of the exhibition came together to celebrate the exhibit’s 60th anniversary.

Dhahran, now an administrative center for the Saudi oil industry, is again the focus of attention.

Lujain Abahussain, manager of the Energy Exhibit, told Arab News in 2022 that she grew up in the city, went to school just a short drive away, and still takes great pride in the historic site where her office stands.

“The fascination is in the location. We are located close to Well No. 7, the Prosperity Well, which is where petroleum was discovered in Saudi Arabia for the first time back in 1938,” she said.

For Al-Therman, the Saudi Aramco senior manager, the focus is on the future.

“In essence, the place where the black gold or hydrocarbon energy was produced is now a place to produce human and creative energy,” he said.

 


Saudi regulations permitting additional floors in villas come into effect

Saudi regulations permitting additional floors in villas come into effect
Updated 16 July 2024
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Saudi regulations permitting additional floors in villas come into effect

Saudi regulations permitting additional floors in villas come into effect
  • Floors can now be separated into independent housing units

RIYADH: New regulations allowing residential villas to build additional basement floors have come into effect in Saudi Arabia.

The government has increased the permissible building percentage for the ground and first floors of residential villas from 70 percent to 75 percent, aimed at expanding residential supply in the Kingdom.

The regulations, which have been approved by Saudi Minister of Municipal and Rural Affairs and Housing Majid Al-Hogail, apply to new construction permits and took effect from July 15.

The ministry had previously posted the residential building regulations on its consultation platform to gather feedback until Feb. 21.

The move forms part of the nation’s push to increase home ownership to 70 percent by 2030, up from 63.74 percent in 2023, under the Housing Program, a Vision 2030 initiative.

In addition, floors in residential villas can now be separated into independent housing units, each with its own entrance, provided that a parking space is available for each unit within the property boundaries.

The ministry also allows the removal of the front wall facing the street to utilize the set back area for parking spaces for the villa’s residential units, thereby increasing the number of parking spaces.

Each residential villa with an area of 400 sq. meters or less must provide one parking space within the property, while villas exceeding 400 sq. meters must provide two parking spaces.

The new guidelines also allow the ground floor of a multi-story residential building to be used for parking, which will not be counted as part of the official number of floors.

In addition, the amendments permit an increase in the housing percentage in upper floor annexes to 70 percent and the use of basements for housing in both residential villas and buildings, provided that natural ventilation and lighting are ensured, according to Saudi Building Code requirements.

The regulations follow international best practice to enhance quality of life. They encourage investment, improve the urban landscape, and regulate development, positively impacting the urban environment and the fabric of Saudi cities.

The amendments stipulate that the minimum width of a driver or domestic worker’s bedroom should be 2.1 sq. meters and the area not less than 6.5 sq. meters.

The placement of air-conditioning units and all types of extensions on facades facing roads and main streets is prohibited.

The new building regulations do not apply to hotels and lodges on highways outside urban areas, hotels, and hotel apartments. They also exclude senior citizens’ and disabled centers, rest houses, high-rise towers, and communal housing for individuals.

Existing buildings and those under construction can benefit from the increased building percentages, heights, and all updates mentioned in the decision, ensuring the building’s safety without harming neighboring properties.

The regulations encompass spatial planning requirements, which outline how land and space should be allocated and utilized.

They also cover technical specifications such as architectural design, structural integrity, and electrical systems, as well as mechanical installations, plumbing standards, and fire prevention and protection measures.


NASA, Saudi Space Agency sign agreement on civilian space exploration

NASA, Saudi Space Agency sign agreement on civilian space exploration
Updated 16 July 2024
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NASA, Saudi Space Agency sign agreement on civilian space exploration

NASA, Saudi Space Agency sign agreement on civilian space exploration
  • NASA Administrator Bill Nelson signed on behalf of the US
  • CEO of the Saudi Space Agency Mohammed bin Saud Al-Tamimi signed on behalf of the Kingdom

RIYADH: Saudi Arabia and the US signed a framework agreement on Monday to increase cooperation between the two countries on civilian space exploration and research, Saudi Press Agency reported on Tuesday.

NASA Administrator Bill Nelson signed on behalf of the US, and CEO of the Saudi Space Agency Mohammed bin Saud Al-Tamimi signed on behalf of the Kingdom.

The agreement was titled “Framework Agreement Between the Government of the United States of America and the Government of The Kingdom of Saudi Arabia on Cooperation in Aeronautics and the Exploration and Use of Airspace and Outer Space for Peaceful Purposes.”

It will establish a legal framework to facilitate and strengthen collaboration between the two countries.

Abdullah Al-Swaha, chairman of the Saudi Space Agency, said that the agreement represented a “turning point in the Kingdom’s journey toward building a strong and prosperous space sector,” and noted that it reflected Saudi Arabia’s commitment to progress and innovation in the field of space travel.

The agreement also acknowledged the importance of the Artemis Accords — which the US signed in October 2020 and Saudi Arabia signed in July 2022 — reflecting their commitment to the transparent, safe and responsible exploration of space, a State Department statement said.


Saudi citizen convicted of issuing fraudulent checks estimated at $3.2m

Saudi citizen convicted of issuing fraudulent checks estimated at $3.2m
Updated 16 July 2024
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Saudi citizen convicted of issuing fraudulent checks estimated at $3.2m

Saudi citizen convicted of issuing fraudulent checks estimated at $3.2m
  • Citizen was convicted of violating the financial fraud and breach of trust law

RIYADH: A Saudi citizen was convicted of issuing 22 fraudulent checks worth approximately SR 12 million ($3.2 million) after an investigation was initiated by the Public Prosecution’s financial fraud unit.

The Saudi Public Prosecution announced on Tuesday that the citizen was convicted of violating the financial fraud and breach of trust law, as well as the commercial papers system.

The checks had no compensation and were issued in a way that prevented their disbursement, thus defrauding the victims by misleading them. 

After arresting the accused, referring him to the competent court, and presenting evidence of his accusation, a ruling was issued against him.

He was sentenced to a five-year imprisonment and a fine of SR 300,000 and must return the amounts to their owners.

Lawyer Naif Al-Malik told Arab News: “Article Two of the law on combatting financial fraud and breach of trust stipulates that the accused shall be punished by imprisonment for a period not exceeding five years, or a fine not exceeding SR 3 million, or both penalties.”

The law includes penalties for those who unlawfully seize the property (money in this context) of others and that which is entrusted to them.

This is in addition to penalties for those who incite others to commit the crimes stipulated in this law.

The Public Prosecution has strongly urged the public to beware of all types of financial fraud.

It stressed that anyone who commits such acts will face severe criminal penalties.


KAUST announces research to enhance Kingdom’s 6G tech ambitions

KAUST announces research to enhance Kingdom’s 6G tech ambitions
Updated 16 July 2024
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KAUST announces research to enhance Kingdom’s 6G tech ambitions

KAUST announces research to enhance Kingdom’s 6G tech ambitions
  • KAUST said the collaboration involves the company’s continuing to fund two communications programs at the university
  • First program focuses on Free-Space Optical communications, while the second revolves around developing Reconfigurable Intelligent Surfaces RIS

RIYADH: King Abdullah University of Science and Technology has announced the beginning of a new research era to develop communication technologies from 5G to 6G in collaboration with a foreign company.

The Saudi Press Agency reported that telecommunications experts expect that by 2025, there will be more than 50 billion devices connected to the internet, including devices that control city power grids and devices used for browsing social media and platforms.

KAUST said that this collaboration involves the company’s continuing to fund two communications programs at the university.

The first program focuses on Free-Space Optical communications, while the second revolves around developing Reconfigurable Intelligent Surfaces RIS. Both technologies have been identified by the industry sector as essential for the development of 5G and 6G communication structures.

FSO communications use lasers to transmit signals through outer space, air, to a wireless detector. The signal attenuation rate increases with higher frequency signals, and 6G has the highest frequency so far (at least 100 gigahertz). This technology is used to measure the effects of weather on signal transmission in order to build a comprehensive database of weather conditions in the Kingdom to address the causes of communication outages, the frequency of occurrences, and their duration. With this information, the company and other companies can strategically place their stations and deploy backup systems in case of failure.

Reconfigurable Intelligent Surfaces provide another solution to signal loss, as urban buildings often contain essential reception stations on their rooftops. RIS are made up of thousands of cells, each typically consisting of layers of metal, insulators, and semiconductors, and are expected to greatly contribute to enabling 6G technology access.

According to SPA, KAUST contributes to enhancing the Kingdom’s leadership in developing and adopting 6G communication technologies, attracting global companies to invest in infrastructure and scientists to assess their research by testing optical communication technologies in space and new reconfigurable smart surfaces, and collecting an unprecedented amount of data on weather conditions and communication performance in the Kingdom.


NEOM-KAUST partnership to target insects threatening Saudi Arabia’s 36 million palm trees

NEOM-KAUST partnership to target insects threatening Saudi Arabia’s 36 million palm trees
Updated 15 July 2024
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NEOM-KAUST partnership to target insects threatening Saudi Arabia’s 36 million palm trees

NEOM-KAUST partnership to target insects threatening Saudi Arabia’s 36 million palm trees
  • Salman Al-Wahib warns that summer is an especially dangerous time because rising temperatures and humidity levels provide conditions for the pests to thrive and contribute to the spread of bacteria and plant mold

RIYADH: Citizens and residents of Saudi Arabia are no strangers to extreme heat conditions, and over the years they have learned to adapt. But as temperatures rise, so do the bugs. And sometimes the problem cannot simply be swatted away.

Tephriditae fruit flies, such as the Mediterranean fruit fly and the olive fruit fly, as well as insects such as the red palm weevil, are among the biggest antagonizing forces against the nation’s plant and fruit supply.

According to research by Topian, NEOM’s food company, the SR9.2 billion ($2.4 billion) date industry loses an average of SR1 billion annually in date palms and associated forgone revenues because of red palm weevil infestations.

Saudi farmers preserve date crops using a technique called ‘sleeving,’ which involves covering the fruit to protect it from pests, weather conditions and other forms of contamination. (AN photo)

At the launch of the Saudi Agrifood Tech Alliance in early July in Riyadh, Andrew Yip, head of innovation and ecosystem activation at Topian, revealed the development of new technology designed to target the red palm weevils threatening Saudi Arabia’s 36 million palm trees.

In partnership with AK-Sens, a King Abdullah University of Science and Technology start-up, Topian plans to commercialize and scale optical fiber sensing technology for early-stage detection of the insect in thousands of trees in under an hour, Yip said.

HIGHLIGHTS

• In partnership with AK-Sens, a King Abdullah University of Science and Technology startup, Topian is developing a new technology designed to target the red palm weevils threatening Saudi Arabia’s 36 million palm trees.

• The project plans to commercialize and scale optical fiber sensing technology for early-stage detection of the insect in thousands of trees in under an hour.

• It has the potential to increase overall efficiency and sustainability in the agrifood sector and farms nationwide.

Following initial testing with only a handful of trees in Tabuk, the team’s latest trial at NEOM involved a thousand trees and achieved 96.3 percent accuracy with a two thirds reduction of set-up time from previous trials.

Saudi farmers preserve date crops using a technique called ‘sleeving,’ which involves covering the fruit to protect it from pests, weather conditions and other forms of contamination. (Supplied)

While the sensing technology has been so far exclusive to palm trees and red palm weevils, it has the potential to increase overall efficiency and sustainability in the agrifood sector and farms nationwide.

To better understand the health risks associated with consuming pest-infested fruits and vegetables, Arab News spoke to Dr. Basem Al-Bahrani, the emergency medicine consultant at Johns Hopkins Aramco Healthcare and a member of the Canadian Association of Emergency Physicians.

He said: “Eating vegetables and fruits is an essential part of a healthy diet, but there are health risks associated with eating them if they are contaminated or not washed properly. These risks may include a variety of issues that may affect individuals in different ways.”

Saudi farmers preserve date crops using a technique called ‘sleeving,’ which involves covering the fruit to protect it from pests, weather conditions and other forms of contamination. (AN photo)

Food poisoning as a result of salmonella, Escherichia coli (or E. coli), or listeria bacteria is among the most common issues and its symptoms include diarrhea, nausea and vomiting, abdominal cramps, and a fever, Al-Bahrani explained.

Other possible health risks are parasitic infections that at their best present the same as food poisoning and at their worst may cause weight loss and anemia. Finally, ingesting pesticide remnants could lead to hormonal imbalances, nervous system disorders, and increased risk of cancer.

NUMBER

$2.4bn

According to research by Topian, NEOM’s food company, the SR9.2 billion ($2.4 billion) date industry loses an average of SR1 billion annually in date palms and associated forgone revenues because of red palm weevil infestations.

Arab News also spoke to Salman Al-Wahib, a Saudi Advanced Business Co. Holding retiree turned farmer and owner of a plant tissue culture laboratory and nursery for outdoor and indoor plants, with 11 years of experience in the field.

He said that fruit pests are a problem that “requires great care from those responsible, farmers, and consumers.” Al-Wahib also warns that summer is an especially dangerous time because rising temperatures and humidity levels provide conditions for the pests to thrive and contribute to the spread of bacteria and plant mold.

He explained that the problem begins, expectedly, at the farming stage. While pests are most common in local fruits, it is more often than not the symptom of imported seeds and soil. If the seeds and soil are not properly treated before the initial shipment, these containers become welcoming habitats for pest procreation, ready to continue their infestation at their final destination.

Farmers and producers follow strict sanitation, inspection, and clearance procedures to avoid large-scale infestation. According to Al-Wahib, the fruit undergoes an interior and exterior inspection to check for any traces of pests. Then, fruit samples are taken to the lab and tested for pests and any pesticide remnants.

The Ministry of Environment, Water, and Agriculture monitors farming sites to ensure that no highly poisonous and environmentally harmful pesticides are used and the standard provisions of Pesticide Law — agreed upon by the agricultural department of the Gulf Cooperation Council in 2005 — are followed. The law states that “it is essential to control and regulate the way they (pesticides) are formulated, used, marketed, stored and handled to stave off any potential risks.” Finally, a certification is granted deeming the selected crop pest and pesticide free and safe for human consumption.

As much as the development of organic pesticides has seen great strides in the last few decades, and farmers such as Al-Wahib agree that they are the superior option to chemical pesticides in efficacy and plant health, there is yet a long way to go to bring down that SR1 billion loss to a much more reasonable number and prevent widespread health issues.

According to Al-Wahib, in addition to thoroughly washing fruits at home, watching for signs of infestation, and using suitable storage techniques, the best way to avoid the dangers of fruit pests is to “buy from trusted local markets or farms that have an official certification deeming them free of harmful chemical pesticides and fertilizers.”

That way our favorite summer fruits may be readily enjoyed worry-free to refresh from the sweltering summer heat.