NEWS | Oman’s Energy Industry & Academia Can Bridge R&D Gap by 2021
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NEWS | Oman’s Energy Industry & Academia Can Bridge R&D Gap by 2021

NEWS | Oman’s Energy Industry & Academia Can Bridge R&D Gap by 2021

Image Attribute: Sultan Qaboos University, Muscat, Oman / Wikimedia Commons

Oman, October 19, 2016 (Gulf Intelligence) – Bridging the gap between Oman’s Energy Industry and Academia to develop a 21st century research and development (R&D) ecosystem will take three to five years to embed, according to almost two-thirds of those polled in an Industry-Academia-Government Survey conducted this week in Oman by Gulf Intelligence GIQ unit.    

Still, nearly a quarter of the 150 respondents said the gap remains “very wide” and would take more than five years to bridge, while 16% disagreed and said the crevice between the two isn’t that great and could be closed within two years. The GIQ Survey results reflect the positive changes that are underway in Oman, with Petroleum Development Oman’s (PDO) Managing Director, Raoul Restucci, saying that the Sultanate is already ahead of most other neighbors when it comes to establishing R&D strategies.

“Oman has a lot of excellence in pockets and the key is to bring that together – the scope is huge! Productivity is a key enabler for everything we want to achieve in our R&D ecosystem – it is a key pillar,” PDO’s Restucci said. “We have an opportunity to really drive applied research, better integration and establish local supply chains for the country. That is what makes the difference and that is what should be the focus.”

Over the last decade, Oman has demonstrated a brave commitment to innovative Research and Development which has successfully stemmed and reversed a dramatic decline in domestic oil output. More of that pioneering spirit and partnership, combined with new technologies, will be needed going forward as the country prepares to tap more of its heavy and complex crude oil reservoirs to sustain and further advance production levels as more easily accessible reserves are depleting.  

Leveraging the considerable opportunity in Oman is a journey that must be equally shared by Industry and Academia. The success of these partnerships is integral to Oman’s economic health, as oil and gas production accounted for the vast majority of government revenues in 2015. Collaboration, efficiency, and communication are especially important for Oman’s future against a backdrop of lower-for-longer oil prices since mid-2014.   

“There is much to be done, but we have started the process and SQU has been trying to establish really strong links with Industry,” Sultan Qaboos University’s (SQU) Deputy Vice-Chancellor of Post-Graduate Studies and Research, Dr. Rahma Ibrahim Al-Mahrooqi, said. “We are asking what the Industry’s needs are, what their challenges are and how SQU can help.”  

Much of Oman’s oil reserves are classed as ‘heavy oil’ and require specialist technology to maximize production, such as enhanced oil recovery (EOR) technologies. Industry stakeholders have said that a closer relationship between Industry and Academia would help with the R&D of such technologies that will enable Oman to sustainably maximize its hydrocarbon output.    

“Oman knows what it will need in five to ten years and where we need to improve – we have the opportunity to get ahead of the game,” said Occidental of Oman’s President and General Manager, Steve Kelly. “The implementation of GlassPoint’s solar technology in Oman, for example, is not the end of the story as far as research is concerned. There are scale-up issues, the behavior of reservoirs and how solar dovetails with other technologies. There is a huge amount to be done, which is clearly an opportunity for research institutes.”    

When asked to pinpoint the main challenge to bridging the gap between Energy Industry and Academia, over a third (39%) of the GIQ Survey respondents said Academia in Oman is not appropriately structured to carry out Applied research. Applied research is when research is systematically carried out to address and resolve a specific challenge, but this too requires collaboration.   

“It is a complicated process, but we are moving in the right direction,” said The Research Council’s Secretary General, H.E. Dr. Hilal Al Hinai. “When I compare the situation we are in today with the same time last year, I am much happier about the potential of the planned collaboration. We have the Innovation Park Muscat, we are signing more MoUs, and we are starting construction of a Training and R&D Institute. We have examples of innovations that will hopefully lead the way to energy efficiency.”  

The GIQ Industry Survey also revealed that 28% of respondents believe that the main challenge to bridging the gap between Energy Industry and Academia is because Industry is not clearly communicating what it wants in terms of its R&D cooperation with Academia, while 13% cited the availability of capital as the main issue and 12% pointed to a limited talent pool.    

While Oman has been improving its R&D infrastructure it must be noted that most new innovative technologies are still imported through international partnerships and not developed locally in Muscat. In order for this trend to change it is necessary to bolster the national capacity for R&D by developing and deepening collaboration between industry, academia, and government throughout Oman.