Saudi Arabia Section Celebrates 60 Years of Excellence

Editor’s Note: SPE’s Kingdom of Saudi Arabia Section (SPE-KSA) recently celebrated its 60th anniversary with a ceremony hosting Saudi Aramco President and CEO Amin H. Nasser. SPE-KSA is the largest section outside the US, with more than 11,000 members, and has won 11 consecutive SPE President’s Awards for Section Excellence. This article was written by Section Chairman Bander Al-Ghamdi about the history of the section and the history of SPE in Saudi Arabia.


It all started in 1859 with the discovery of oil. With the growing petroleum industry, a standing committee on oil and gas was created within the American Institute of Mining Engineers (AIME) in 1913. The American Institute of Mining was founded in 1871 in Pennsylvania to advance the production of metals, as Philadelphia and Pittsburgh were known as the cities of steel (oil was also discovered in Pennsylvania).

Approaching the 1950s, the membership’s significant growth led to a restructuring decision that shaped the future of the Society of Petroleum Engineers (SPE). In 1957, the new society was established to address the technical interests of its growing membership. Today, SPE’s total professional and student membership is more than 158,000 members from 143 countries.

Saudi Aramco President and CEO Amin H. Nasser (left) with SPE-KSA 2015–2016 Chairman Bander Khamies during the SPE-KSA 60th anniversary ceremony.


Two years later, this strong foundation found its way to the leading oil exporter in the world, Saudi Arabia.

On 16 January, 1959, the SPE Saudi Arabian Section was established as the first section outside of the United States. The chairman of the section at that time was D. Brown. Today, we are one of 204 SPE sections around the world and one of the largest with more than 11,000 members.

In 1974, Bert Golding become chairman, and established the term of each chairman to 1 year. Nine years later, Haider Al-Awami became the first Saudi chairman of the section in 1983. By 1989, the section had already won a total of 30 awards, marking the birth of a shining star. This number of awards doubled in the 10 years that followed, and continues to grow to this day.

The section showed itself to be a source of industry knowledge, leadership, and excellence, growing in scope and scale. In 1990, it held the first Annual Technical Symposium and the number of local events and activities continued to increase.

The Saudi section marked its first SPE international president in 2007 with the appointment of Abdul Jaleel Al-Khalifah, the first Saudi and Middle Easterner to reach this prestigious position. That year marked another milestone, the inauguration of a program dedicated to young professionals and student outreach. The program is aimed to empower the youth and develop future leadership.

Our history is full of success stories, resembling the determination of our members, sponsors, executive board of directors, and all of our supporters. In 2008, the section received its first President’s Award for Section Excellence and since then has received it for 11 consecutive years.

Presenting a token of appreciation to Nasser during the celebration were, from left to right: Bander Al-Ghamdi, SPE-KSA 2018–2019 chairman; Mohammed Y. Al-Qahtani, Saudi Aramco senior vice president of upstream and honorary chairman of SPE-KSA Board of Directors; Saudi Aramco President and CEO Amin H. Nasser; Nasir K. Al-Naimi, Saudi Aramco vice president of petroleum engineering and development and chairman of the SPE-KSA Board of Directors; 2019 SPE President Sami Alnuaim; and Bander Khamies, SPE-KSA 2015–2016 chairman.


SPE-KSA continued serving the SPE family with diversified technical programs and community outreach endeavors. We are proud of our history, marked by many achievements aiming to indulge our members’ interests in promoting the latest industry trends in technological advancements and operational risk mitigation. The section has eagerly worked to build partnerships with the public sector, private enterprises, and non-profit organizations across the Kingdom to emphasize the importance of technical dissemination, professional networking, and volunteerism.

Our programs today amount to 400 events annually. We have become a platform that drives innovation and collaboration and attracts top talent. In 2017, we reached more than 15,000 students as part of an effort to bridge the gap in technical competency and ignite interest in our industry.

SPE-KSA provides its members with many opportunities to unlock their full potential, and 56% of members who have passed the SPE Petroleum Engineering Certification Exam are from the Saudi section. The success rate of our professionals on the certification exam is 96%, compared with the 68% passing rate globally.

This year the section is celebrating Sami Alnuaim as 2019 SPE President, the second Saudi to hold this title. Alnuaim has accumulated 30 years of service to SPE.

The historical development of the section has been characterized by outstanding regional and international awards, winning more than 300 regional and international awards.

Our 60-year journey has been marked by commitment and professionalism. Through the years, individuals from different demographics, cultures, knowledge bases, and genders have decided that what was previously an achievement has become a practice, and what was impossible before is another goal to be achieved. With a significant global and industrial base, the SPE-KSA section’s executive board and chairman will continue to build on the tremendous strides of the SPE-KSA section, growing in scale and scope, making giant leaps toward achieving our vision.


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