Dr. Abeer Al Olayan

Research Area
Smart Materials for Oil & Gas
Material Science and Engineering
Fellowship date
September 1, 2015
Prof. Alfredo Alexander-Katz


Dr. Abeer Al-Olayan is a senior scientist with the EXPEC Advanced Research Center of Saudi Aramco. Abeer has an academic and industrial background with more than 15 years of experience in various components of chemistry. She was an Assistant Professor with the Chemistry Department of Dammam University before joined Saudi Aramco since 2011.

Dr. Olayan was assigned to handle a new focus research area related to chemical products development for Saudi Aramco, directing and managing a number of research initiatives related to the development of new chemical materials/components applicable to reservoir engineering and drilling best practices.

Dr. Olayan is a Co-founder of Network of Arab Women for Science and Technology in Bahrain in 2005 and the first SPE International Professionals in Energy Conference (IPEC) in Kuwait in 2012. She is a member of the steering committee and chairperson of many conferences and workshops, such as Chemindex, Labtech and SPE Specialty Oilfield Chemicals. She served on the Board of Directors at the American Chemical Society - Saudi Arabia section as a first female member in 2010. Abeer is the author of a number of publications and has 2 patents pending approval.

MIT Fellowship Research Abstract: 

Towards Developing Smart Materials for Oil & Gas Applications

In the oil and gas industry, there has been a dramatic increase in global rig count numbers which is currently estimated to be around 4000 rigs. This high level of rig activity is an indicator of the chemical products and additives used in drilling, completion, production and EOR.

Unfortunately, some of these additives are organic or food based, such as starch and xanthan gum. These high levels might create future food crises and increase the cost of living consumption. The spirit of Dr. Olayan’s research is to stop the dependence on food based resources and to rely more instead on petroleum based chemicals (synthetic chemicals). In addition, it is very important to look for more innovative chemicals to meet the rising challenges posed by high temperature, high salinity and high pressure wells.    

Synthetic polymers have emerged to become the predominant and preferred polymer type for use in commercial oilfield conformance improvement operations because of the inherent chemical and biological stability of synthetic polymers, along with injectivity and cost issues.

The purpose of this fellowship proposal is to synthesize and develop smart self-healing polymers that could replace the polymers currently used in drilling, completion, production and stimulation operations. Different techniques will be used to achieve this material with various compositions for our specific needs.

Capitalizing on MIT’s top capabilities in fundamental science and specifically in polymer research, Dr. Olayan plans to conduct research relating to developing/creating synthetic polymers/chemicals that can be used in the oil industry applications. The market need is increasing and the new drilling frontiers (deep water, tight reservoirs, HTHP, etc.) will benefit greatly from such chemicals.

 As stated in the beginning, the objectives are to:

  • Reduce the dependence on food based chemicals that have a limited range of properties, when it comes to temperature and pressure
  • Reduce the cost of living by not consuming these organic and food based chemicals
  • Meet the drilling and subsurface challenges
  • Reduce drilling costs

Fellowship Sponsored By: 

Saudi Aramco