Saudi Aramco partners with Pasqal for quantum computing • The Register

Saudi Aramco, the world’s largest oil producer, is working with French startup Pasqal to find out if quantum computing can give it a boost in the energy sector.

Pasqal, which develops quantum computers based on neutral atoms, said on Wednesday it had reached a memorandum of understanding with Saudi Aramco in which the pair would team up on the capabilities and applications of quantum computing in the oil and gas industry.

As part of the deal, the companies plan to develop machine learning models that can take advantage of Pasqal’s quantum systems and identify areas of Saudi Aramco’s business that can benefit from them.

The oil giant will have access to Pasqal’s quantum computing platform and the startup’s expertise to create new use cases. Saudi Aramco may also integrate Pasqal’s quantum technology into training programs in the future.

Saudi Aramco and Pasqal sign a memorandum of understanding

Saudi Aramco and Pasqal sign a memorandum of understanding

Pasqal said quantum computing can address a variety of areas important to oil producers like Saudi Arabia. This includes linear refinery programming, an optimization model that can help oil producers improve their profits by making small adjustments to the refining process. Pasqal believes he can also benefit from network optimization as well as managing and generating reaction networks.

“For its part, [Aramco] is focused on pioneering the use of quantum computing in the energy sector, positioning itself as an early beneficiary of the quantum advantage over classical computers,” Pasqal said.

Pasqal sees his work with Saudi Aramco as a jumping-off point for future business opportunities in the Middle East, where he already has a handful of employees and plans to expand his workforce over the next few years.

Founded in 2019, Pasqal builds computers using quantum processing units made up of hundreds of neutral atoms in 2D and 3D networks, which the 70-person company says can be used to solve computational problems. calculations that are difficult to solve using conventional computers.

“This is a very promising move for Pasqal and a perfect opportunity for us to show not just the energy industry, but the world, what our technology can do,” said CEO Georges-Olivier Reymond. “It further confirms that our neutral atom technology is one of the most promising in the world.”

Many companies are testing quantum

The big question is how well the world will witness the significant commercial implications of quantum computing, even if companies like Saudi Aramco experience major breakthroughs, according to Bob Sorensen, senior vice president of research at Hyperion Research.

“Once it becomes a real competitive advantage, some of that will be much, much less visible,” he said. Many commercial organizations are now “starting the tires” on quantum computing projects in hopes of finding relevant use cases for their businesses, said Sorensen, who counts Pasqal among his clients.

A study published by Sorensen last November found that half of the more than 400 commercial organizations surveyed worldwide had a “program in place to explore options and monitor” quantum computing developments, while a third was already in proof of concept. These organizations spanned multiple verticals, including aerospace, life sciences, electronics, healthcare, pharmaceuticals, software, telecommunications, manufacturing, and financial services.

The Saudi Aramco-Pasqal deal, according to Sorensen, is “another example of an interesting company discovering how quantum computing can increase its innovation capabilities, increase R&D and add to its overall competitive advantage.”

Sorensen said the field of quantum computing, where there can be a lot of hype, is coming to a point where breakthroughs could occur in the next few years. But he fears that many companies, including Saudi Aramco, will not share detailed results for competitive reasons.

“We would like to see demonstrated use cases of quantum computing that have a measurable impact on business practices,” he said. “Right now the world is really looking for proof-of-concept advantages. There’s no knockout success story yet, ‘gee whiz, I can’t believe this happened’.” ®

Sherry J. Basler