Research Center For Renewable Energy Set Up

RIYADH, 11 July 2007 — Saudi Arabia has set up a world-class multimillion-riyal research center for renewable energy that seeks to empower the country to continue playing the role of world energy leader for years to come.

The center, which is housed at the campus of the Dhahran-based King Fahd University of Petroleum and Minerals (KFUPM), is currently working on resource mobilization before its premier research activities kick off in a year’s time.

News about the initiative was disclosed by S.U. Rahman, interim director of the Center of Research Excellence in Renewable Energy (CoRE-RE) at KFUPM, yesterday. Rahman said that the Ministry of Higher Education has supported the initiative with a mandate to pursue research programs in the field of renewable energy. The center has already started working with the vision statement — “Empower the Kingdom to continue as the world energy leader.”

Rahman, who holds a doctorate degree from KFUPM, said that there is certainly evidence of ample interest in alternative fuels in Saudi Arabia, including the generation and use of hydrogen and solar energy as an alternative to fossil fuels.

“Moreover, it is high time to pursue intensive studies and research in the field of renewable energy as the Kingdom lags behind in this area,” said the center’s director.

The move to open this research center is also significant keeping in view the fact that Saudi Arabia continues to face long-term economic challenges that place pressures on Saudi oil revenues.

Hence, there is a need to diversify the economy and decrease reliance on oil, earnings of which make up around 90-95 percent of total Saudi export earnings, 70-80 percent of state revenues, and around 40 percent of the country’s gross domestic product (GDP).

Spelling out the features of the research center, Rahman said, “The center aspires to prepare the Kingdom for the fast approaching hydrogen and methanol economies and help harness its immense solar and wind potentials.”

The center has set up different branches for research on hydrogen, methanol and fuel cell; solar and wind energy; advanced energy storage systems; electrical infrastructure and control systems; and economics of renewable energy.

“The center aims to conduct research and development activities…, facilitate technology transfer, help the advancement and dissemination of knowledge, provide training, create awareness of renewable energy, strengthen graduate research and help nucleate industries at national and international levels,” said Rahman, adding that the ministry is currently supporting the center for five years. The center, however, expects government and industry support for coming years.

Referring to the importance of such a research facility like CoRE-RE, Rahman said, “Renewable energy is going to play an important role in future energy markets and it is very opportune that the Kingdom has taken initiative to pursue active research in this area… There is an urgent need to coordinate efforts in this field.”

On the energy front, Saudi Arabia is the largest producer and exporter at the moment. The Kingdom contains 261.9 billion barrels of proven oil reserves including 2.5 billion barrels in the Saudi-Kuwaiti divided “neutral” zone. Around two-thirds of Saudi reserves are considered “light” or “extra light” grades of oil, with the rest either “medium” or “heavy.” The Kingdom also has around 80 oil and gas fields besides more than 1,000 oil wells.

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