Remarks by H.E. Ali Al-Naimi at AGH University of Science and Technology, Krakow, Poland

June 2, 2011

Your Excellency, Waldemar Pawlak;
Rector Professor Antoni Tajdús, and
Vice-Rector for Science, Professor Tomasz Szmuc;
Members of the University Senate;
Dean Andrzej Gonet, and the Drilling, Oil and Gas Faculty;
tudents of the Akademia Górniczo-Hutnicza;
Ladies and gentlemen:

Dzień dobry (good afternoon).

I am very happy to be in Poland again, among friends I have known since I first came to Warsaw 12 years ago.

As of today, I have been privileged to visit Poland a total of five times.  Each visit has underscored for me the beauty and resilience of this country, and the warmth and kindness of the Polish people.

I am especially glad to visit Krakow at long last. Rarely do history and cutting-edge science and technology coincide in one dynamic place, as they do in this beautiful city on the Vistula River.

Certainly that balance is well represented in this university, with its 92-year heritage and its leadership in advanced research and development.

On behalf of the people of Saudi Arabia, I am gratified to receive an honorary doctorate from this fine institution.

It is most meaningful that this honor speaks to closer cultural, scientific and academic links between the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia and the Republic of Poland. 

Our two countries have, of course, a unique shared history, but I am here today to talk about our shared future. A shared future which comprises of three key elements: education, energy and the environment.

First, education.

Ladies and gentlemen, universities have always served the highest purpose: that of cultivating knowledge and understanding for human progress.

They also have afforded tremendous economic, cultural and social benefit to their host cities.

Krakow, with a proud higher-education tradition extending from Jagiellonian University in the 12th century to the scientific leadership of AGH today, illustrates this point well.

But Saudi Arabia, like Poland,  is an ancient land with a long history of landmark contributions to knowledge and invention.

The Arab bait al hikma, or House of Wisdom, was a literal place in ancient Baghdad.

But the House of Wisdom was also a centuries-long Golden Age among scholars and scientists which saw the contributions of Muhammad ibn Musa Al-Khwarizmi, Jabir ibn Haiyan, and Badi‘ al-Zaman Isma‘il ibn al-Razzaz Al-Jazari – perhaps better known, respectively, as the fathers of algebra, chemistry and mechanical engineering.

And while the Kingdom is a relatively young nation, we are fast building on such long traditions of learning and far-reaching contributions.

The Kingdom’s new graduate research university in the city of Thuwal on the Red Sea, King Abdullah University of Science and Technology, or KAUST, was created in the same traditions as its ancient forerunner. 

KAUST is a 21st-century institution designed, in the words of King Abdullah, to “bring Saudi Arabia to the world, and the world to Saudi Arabia” through domestic and international research and teaching partnerships. 

The key to this is talented young people.

Human ingenuity is more precious than any other resource; scientific and technological advances through the ages have relied upon the knowledge, skills and aspirations of people who create and use these tools. 

Both AGH and KAUST work to attract, develop and graduate the world’s top talent – we are both well aware of the urgency in competing for the brightest minds.

Speaking of bright minds, I am pleased to note that Poland has a good early representation at KAUST with three Polish students – two women and one man – currently enrolled.

One student completed her master’s degree in chemical and biological engineering in December 2010 with KAUST’s inaugural graduating class, and is now pursuing a Ph.D. at KAUST in the same field.

The other two are both Ph.D. candidates in bioscience who began in Spring 2010.

And I hope that the two AGH geophysicists working for Saudi Aramco will be joined by more alumni of this great Polish institution, because one ultimate objective of KAUST is to add dimension to the Kingdom’s global energy leadership.

Which brings me to my second point, energy.

Every human endeavor relies upon energy – and this essential energy must become increasingly sustainable. So no task is more urgent than addressing the world’s future energy mix. Both AGH and KAUST will have a role to play.

With growing global energy demand driven by the transformative factors of Asia’s emerging middle classes, drastic population growth in developing nations, and the efforts of less developed nations to emerge from poverty, the twin concerns of adequate energy supplies, and their environmental and economic sustainability, are top priority.

We know that fossil fuels, led by oil and gas, will by far continue to meet most of world’s energy needs, for the next few decades at least.

Ultimately, however, the contributions of all energy sources will be needed to keep the world’s economic engines humming, and to help billions of poor people achieve a better standard of living.

This brighter future depends on two closely connected requirements.

First, because petroleum will shoulder most of the world’s energy needs, we must continue to make oil cleaner and greener.

Together, the oil industry and academia have made great strides to improve the environmental sustainability of the world’s most plenteous, most established energy source.

Thanks to human ingenuity, challenging resources can become reserves at lower costs, with an ever-lighter footprint; and we are making every stage of oil’s production and consumption cleaner. 

As no other energy source is ready to meet the broad needs filled by petroleum in transportation, heating and cooling, power, and chemicals and plastics, oil should be the centerpiece of a drive to improve the environmental performance of all viable energies.

The second requirement is a level playing field for all viable energies, where investments, technologies, and policies – even public opinion – support their optimal contribution to the energy mix.

Poland and Saudi Arabia are working independently in these areas toward a more secure energy future.

Looking first at Poland, AGH is not only an engine for solutions, but a partner in applying them for economic and social impact. 

Especially notable are its participation in Poland’s first liquefied natural gas terminal; the CCPolandPlus project to develop clean coal technologies; and INNOAGH, the Krakow Center for Innovative Technologies cluster program.

The discovery of 185 trillion cubic feet of unconventional gas in northern and central Poland is an energy game-changer.  So too are transformative technologies like the new hydraulic fracturing process now making accessible Europe’s highest levels of technically recoverable shale gas reserves.

It will be exciting to watch Poland’s unconventional gas program unfold, and I look forward to seeing the university’s laboratory specific to unconventional gas now under development.

Poland’s shale gas resources have broad implications for national and European energy security, energy diversification and economic growth.

Ladies and gentlemen, when we speak about energy, let me be clear that Saudi Arabia’s 264 billion barrels of proven oil reserves are just part of the equation – the other half is our commitment to reliably deliver energy as the world’s leading supplier. 

This assurance is reflected in the Kingdom’s $125 billion investment over five years along the petroleum value chain. 

Our focus on sustainability-driven R&D, such as giga-cell technology to simulate giant oil fields at seismic or near-seismic resolution to optimize production and injection, and nano-agents for reservoir mapping and characterization, is further evidence of this imperative.

And while Saudi Arabia is most commonly associated with petroleum, we have broadened our horizons to include alternative energies for their essential contribution to energy security, as defined by diverse, affordable and accessible resources that constitute the optimum energy mix.

Oil is not the Kingdom’s only energy wealth: Saudi Arabia is blessed with an abundance of sunshine, silica and open acreage, which make solar energy a natural, logical focus.

Which brings me to my final point here today, the environment, and the importance of learning and universities, like this one here in Krakow, and KAUST in Saudi Arabia, in developing sustainable solutions for the future.

In the 21st century, we are seeing universities assume greater influence and importance, as globalization, the Information Age, and the growth of knowledge economies position schools to serve, not as remote ivory towers, but institutions actively engaged in local and global partnerships for mutual aims and benefits – and even across disciplines within the university.

In keeping with the dynamic mission of the 21st-century research university, KAUST is at the forefront of the Kingdom’s solar investment.

The Solar and Photovoltaics Engineering Research Center, the largest of KAUST’s nine focus areas, aims to make highly efficient solar energy cells commercially viable through lower costs.  Subsets of this goal are promoting entrepreneurship; creating scores of jobs; and facilitating collaborative industry and academic partnerships.

Renewable energy is literally built into KAUST, through its monumental roof-top solar thermal and photovoltaic arrays, as well as plans for additional solar roof-top plants whose output will save some 1,700 tons of carbon emissions annually.

Industry and academic partnership between KAUST and Saudi Aramco, the Kingdom’s petroleum enterprise, may include collaboration in low-cost solar solutions for industrial activities such as cooling, desalination and pumping. 

A 10 megawatt solar-powered desalination plant using a new photovoltaic concentration technology is now underway in al-Khafji, Saudi Arabia, through the cooperation of King Abdulaziz City for Science and Technology, which is the Kingdom’s national science organization, and IBM.

Saudi Aramco’s renewable-energy strategy is gaining momentum with the Kingdom’s largest solar plant, a 10 megawatt photovoltaic car-port project underway in Dhahran. 

These instances of collaboration among academia, government agencies, and business and industry demonstrate the vast potential to be gained on the energy and environment front. 

It is my hope that a decade from now, Saudi Arabia will produce solar energy for domestic power generation, so that oil presently used for high levels of electricity demand at home can be made available for export. 

Indeed, Saudi Arabia’s solar energy expansion focus aims to match our export oil-equivalent barrels in gigawatts.

The Kingdom’s estimated solar potential is 4.5 times the total global power demand forecast for 2020 – a welcome contribution to the energy mix that will also diversify domestic energy sources.

And so, to conclude.

Ladies and gentlemen, when it comes to education, energy and the environment, it is clear that Poland and Saudi Arabia have much in common – shared goals, shared aspirations and shared ambitions for a better future.

The many independent achievements by Poland and Saudi Arabia, both historic and contemporary, prove how science and technology, in the hands of visionary men and women, have been able to transform the industrial world time and again.

Given the separate successes and common aims of our nations, I believe that cooperation in academic and industrial research can accelerate our progress.

Promoting oil for economic growth and prosperity, improving oil’s environmental performance, and developing renewable energies as a means of fuel flexibility are areas of potential collaboration that hold particular promise.

Poland and Saudi Arabia share long and vibrant histories; strong values, especially a deep appreciation for higher education; a tradition of enduring scientific contribution; and innovation cultures focused on making energy more abundant, more affordable, cleaner and more efficient. 

These common aims and achievements ideally suit us to work, side by side, in realizing the enormous possibilities of the 21st century.

Ladies and gentlemen, Walery Wieloglowski, the 19th century statesman who so ardently championed a great Polish university that would harness the nation’s resources for far-reaching good, expressed this hope of transformative achievement most eloquently – so in closing, let me borrow his words:

“Let us capture the treasures of the world through science.”

My friends, I am proud that today, by virtue of this degree, I am now part of the Akademia Gorniczo-Hutnicza.

And so, in the 92-year tradition of the university, itself rooted in the hallowed practice handed down nearly 200 years ago by your predecessor institutions, St. Staszic University of Science and Technology and The Academy of Mining, I salute you in the miner’s greeting:

Szczęść wam Boże: God speed you.

Dziekuje, ladies and gentlemen – thank you.