Aramco launches first quantum computer in Saudi Arabia

Oil major teams up with French tech firm Pasqal for the 200-qubit machine, pioneering the use of the highly advanced technology in the energy sector

Saudi Aramco tower in King Abdullah Financial District in Riyadh. The quantum computer is expected to complement Saudi Arabia's technological drive. AFP
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Saudi Arabia has installed its first quantum computer in further boost to its key energy sector, as the kingdom continues to adopt cutting-edge technology across different industries to diversify its economy.

The 200-qubit machine will be built through a partnership between Saudi Aramco, the world's largest oil-producing company, and French technology firm Pasqal, the companies said in a joint statement on Monday.

It is scheduled for deployment in the second half of 2025 and is aimed at pioneering the use of the highly-advanced technology in the energy sector, solving complex problems and identifying more use cases for quantum computing.

“This isn't just any quantum computer; it will be the most powerful tool deployed for industrial usages, unlocking a new era of innovation for businesses and society,” Georges-Olivier Reymond, chief executive and co-founder of Paris-based Pasqal, said.

“The era of quantum computing is here. No longer confined to theory, it's transitioning to real-world applications, empowering organisations to solve previously intractable problems at scale.”

Quantum computing uses highly specialised technology to solve complex problems that traditional computers or even supercomputers cannot, or reduce the time it takes to solve them.

A qubit – short for quantum bit – is the basic unit of quantum computing that is more versatile than binary bits in classical computers.

Quantum computers are exponentially faster than its counterparts. In 2019, Google claimed that its Sycamore chip was able to solve a maths problem – that would take 10,000 years – in just 200 seconds.

Currently, some of the world’s biggest technology firms are working with computers with a capacity of about 100 qubits, but to tackle the biggest problems, machines with 100,000 or one million qubits may be required.

Late last year, US technology major IBM announced that it had successfully developed the world's first 1,000-qubit chip, Condor, which more than doubled the previous record of 433 qubits set by IBM’s Osprey chip.

In April, Microsoft and Quantinuum announced new technology designed to minimise inaccuracies associated with quantum computing algorithms, built on the “most reliable logical qubits on record”.

The quantum computer is expected to complement Saudi Arabia's technological drive, as the kingdom continues to roll out initiatives and attract investments to prepare for the economy of the future.

The machine will help integrate advanced solutions into Saudi Aramco's business, and would be “further evidence of our contribution to the growth of the digital economy”, Ahmad Al Khowaiter, Saudi Aramco’s executive vice president for technology and innovation, said.

“In a rapidly evolving digital landscape, we believe it is crucial to seize opportunities presented by new, impactful technologies and we aim to pioneer the use of quantum computing in the energy sector,” he said.

Updated: May 20, 2024, 10:54 AM