The ninth annual meeting was held from 29 to 30 April at King Abdulaziz City for Science and Technology (KACST) in Riyadh. The event brought together around 100 experts from institutions in Saudi Arabia, the UAE, Oman, and the United States. The theme of the meeting was “Frontiers in Combustion Research for Clean Power Generation and Carbon Management.” A total of 46 presentations were made across the five different sessions.
The ninth annual meeting featured three keynote lectures addressing a diverse range of topics. Sylvain Cote, Senior Research Fellow in Energy & Macroeconomics at KAPSARC discussed the potential impact of demography and technological change on the Saudi labor market. Cote discussed how Saudi Arabia, which is faced with high youth unemployment and an emerging young population, has embarked on an ambitious economic modernization program. Saudi Vision 2030, which is the center piece of this plan, aims to diversify the economy in order to absorb into the labor market its young population, of which half is under 25 years of age. “While high unemployment continues to be persistent due to various structural challenges, automation will be bringing disruption to the labor market. Saudi Arabia will then be facing two colliding forces (demographics and technological change)” said Cote. This dual challenge could make it more difficult for Saudi Arabia to generate the job growth needed to provide employment opportunities for a large number of young people expected to enter the labor market in the forthcoming years. But at the same time, these challenges provide an opportunity to consider how the Saudi government could balance the efficiency gains of technological advancement with the need to generate employment to absorb its emerging youth population.
In the second keynote, Dr. Ali Al-Dawood, Head of the Technology Outlook Team in the Technology Strategy & Planning Department at Saudi Aramco discussed how transport technology has been evolving rapidly in response to concerns over air quality, increasing regulatory pressure, and increased demand for mobility. Further, the more recent push towards reducing the carbon footprint of the transport sector has accelerated the innovation and penetration of alternative fuels and propulsion technologies. “This push for the decarbonization of the transport sector appears to be driving us towards a future that involves either fuel decarbonization (i.e., hydrogen) or electrification (i.e., electric vehicles)” said Al-Dawood. The presentation highlighted strategic implications of this push for decarbonization, while making the case for an inclusive approach that takes advantage of new technologies, but also appreciates the importance of continuing to invest in improved oil-based fuels and advanced internal combustion engine technology.
The final keynote was delivered by Dr. Dimitris Goussis, Professor and Chair in the Department of Mechanical Engineering at Khalifa University, Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates. Dr. Goussis discussed multiscale dynamics in reacting flows, including the benefits and drawbacks. The drawbacks are the well-known numerical difficulties due to stiffness, while the benefits refer to the opportunity for the acquisition of the relevant physical understanding. “The fast dynamics generate constraints, in which the reacting process evolves. Given these constraints, the process can be simulated by a model much more simple than the full” said Goussis. The Computational Singular Perturbation (CSP) algorithm and some of its extensions can provide all the required tools for such an analysis. Dr. Goussis analyzed several reactive processes, with emphasis placed on (i) the benefits resulting from the wide range of fast/slow dynamics, and (ii) the acquired physical understanding. These processes included homogeneous auto-ignition, flames and knock.