Saudi Aramco, a company that last year produced an average 9.5 million barrels of crude oil a day, on Wednesday opened a research center in Cambridge, the first of three new US research facilities the global energy giant will set up by the end of next year.
Workers at the 32,000-square-foot office in Kendall Square will focus on several tasks, including developing computer simulations of oil reservoirs to help increase the amount of crude the company can extract. The center, owned and operated by the company’s US-based subsidiary Aramco Services Co., is expected to create roughly 50 high-tech science and research jobs.
Speaking at the center’s inauguration, Aramco chief executive Khalid A. Al-Falih and other company representatives listed the state’s innovation economy and research universities as a major reason for locating here.
“This area — specifically Cambridge — is at the frontline of global innovation with elite schools for research and innovation, and we want to be part of this exciting mix,” Al-Falih said in a statement.
Aramco already has ties to Massachusetts. The company is a founding member and financial backer of the MIT Energy Initiative, which works with industry and across the school’s disciplines to research and address energy issues. An Aramco senior vice president, Abdulrahman R. Al-Wuhaib, serves on the Energy Initiative’s external advisory board. The company’s new research center will not be affiliated with the school.
Robert C. Armstrong, director of the MIT Energy Initiative, said Aramco’s presence in Massachusetts is a sign that the state’s energy technology industry one day could be as significant as its lucrative biotechnology sector.
Armstrong said the Aramco seems interested in what it can learn from research in other industries, such as nanotechnology and material sciences, that can then be applied to energy.
“Cambridge specifically gives them an intellectual and innovative hub, and a field of new ideas,” he said.
Aramco also plans to locate a research center in Houston, the heart of the country’s oil production industry, and another in Detroit, where the biggest US automakers reside. Those are expected to open sometime next year.