Petroleomics is the science of “understanding the oil at its most profound, molecular level,” says Dr. Nadrah Alawani, who has worked at Aramco for seven years. It is a science on which research and technology development heavily depends, especially technologies that create value from crude oil.
She uses mass spectrometry, an analytical technique used to obtain the molecular weight of the compounds contained within a substance. Crude oil is a complex mix, knowing the molecular weights helps in identifying the structure and molecular formula of the fractions – the types of hydrocarbons contained within the oil. This is immensely useful for the successful characterization of petroleum samples—which is fundamental in supporting several applications including oil exploration, catalyst development, and process optimization.
“Studying oil at this level is extraordinarily powerful across the value chain, for solving flow assurance issues, for feed selection and blending, and for catalyst development. It helps our researchers to optimize Aramco’s products,” says Dr. Alawani, who leads the analytical work in the projects she works on.
This detailed information holds great value for the Company because “the long-chain hydrocarbons and aromatic hydrocarbons are what gives oil its characteristics—whether it is light or heavy, sweet or sour,” she adds.