Abdulla Al Naim, vice president of exploration for Saudi Aramco and a towering figure in Middle East exploration and AAPG leadership activities in the region, will be honored posthumously during the opening ceremony of this year’s AAPG Annual Convention and Exhibition in Pittsburgh.
Al Naim died unexpectedly Dec. 31, shortly after being notified that he would be awarded Honorary membership in AAPG. He was 57.
Family members – Abdulaziz, Yasmeen, Abdulrahman and Haifa Al Naim – will attend the ceremony and accept the award in his honor.
AAPG Executive Director David Curtiss called Al Naim “a visionary leader and geoscientist – the energy profession has lost a tireless advocate for the advancement of science and technology to find and develop the oil and natural gas the world so desperately needs.”
As a professional geologist, Al Naim was a giant in the industry, regarded as an authority on the history of exploration in Saudi Arabia and deemed the country’s best regional geologist.
He authored and co-authored several papers about the Middle East geology, with a special interst in basin-centered gas – a subject he spoke on in many conferences.
But in addition to his success as a geologist, Al Naim was just as instrumental in opening the doors of the profession to young geoscientists, mentoring many young professionals and helping to create scholarship programs that brought additional opportunities to many more.
Leadership was another of his assets, and he repeatedly played crucial roles in the founding, organizing and implementation of several geoscience groups, including serving as president of the AAPG Middle East Region in 2005-06.
“He was a big supporter for AAPG and its activities in the Middle East,” said Pinar O. Yilmaz, also of ExxonMobil and herself an AAPG Honorary member.
“Through his efforts and support, the AAPG Middle East Council was able to pursue unmatched levels of activities,” she added, “bringing geoscience workshops and seminars to all companies and universities in the region.
“Abdulla also was a gentleman geologist,” Yilmaz added, “one whose interest and passion for the rocks combined with humility, humanity, kindness and intelligence made him a man of the world.”
Biographer Abdulkader M. Afifi wrote that Al Naim was born and raised in Dammam, “literally between oil facilities and within sight of Aramco’s headquarters in Dhahran.”
“Abdulla’s true passion was exploration,” Afifi noted.
Al Naim received his bachelor’s degree in geology from King Saud University in Riyadh, then began his career with Aramco in 1978 as a wellsite geologist. This was followed by a number of administrative assignments within the company, leading to the positions of manager of the area exploration division (1996), manager of the exploration operations department (2002) and manager of the reservoir characterization department (2004).
He became Saudi Aramco’s executive director of exploration in November 2004, and was appointed vice president in April 2006.
At one point he also held the position of acting vice president of petroleum engineering and development, being responsible for the management and development of all Saudi Aramco oil and gas fields.
An AAPG member since 1986, Al Naim was instrumental in the founding of the AAPG affiliate Dhahran Geological Society, and then served as the group’s first president. At that same time he served on AAPG’s International Committee.
He served on the organizing committees of the regional Society of Petroleum Engineers (SPE) technical conferences, and was a member of the technical and executive committees of every GEO conference since its inception in 1994, serving as the chair in 2006.
At the time of his death Al Naim was a member the AAPG Corporate Advisory Board, and was instrumental in providing guidance and corporate support for AAPG conferences, workshops, field trips and publications on both the local and international levels.
Al Naim received several awards for his leadership, including the AAPG International Special Commendation Award in 1999 and an AAPG Distinguished Service Award in 2006.