Fire at KM 624

From NASA History:

Biblical and Near East students find much of value in this photograph. Sinai is at the center, Arabia to the right, Palestine and the Levant to the upper left, and Mesopotamia to the upper right. One can trace the route of Abraham to Israel and clearly see Judea, Galilee, and Samaria. The River Jordan connects the Sea of Galilee to the Dead Sea, all in a straight line along a great rift in the Earth's crust. Mount Sinai (Gebel Musa) is seen in the Sinai. Portions of the Hejaz pilgrimage route that Moslems have used for nearly 1,400 years can be seen between Damascus and Mecca. The black cloud in the upper right is the result of a fire caused by destruction on the Trans Arabian pipeline. We see the fire and smoke from over 1,000 kilometers distance.

(S66-54893; Gemini XI.) l2 - 15 September 1966

(From: http://www.hq.nasa.gov/office/pao/History/SP-4203/phot01.htm

From John Makkinje (Mon, 28 Dec 1998):

The upgrading of the Tapline access road from just a desert track to a proper blacktopped road had started back in early 1964.By September they had just passed Badanah and the initial rough spread, that are the fellows who roughly level the staked road track had reached Km 624.These dozers had a very large ripper fitted to the back and had just cut through an area consisting of a lot of large rocky low hills.

One day at lunch time one bulldozer operator decided to turn left off the track , he pulled up the ripper and crossed the low berm that covers the pipeline. As the end of his tracks moved down from the berm, his ripper of course did the same and it hit the pipeline and like a can opener tore a long slot in the pipe. The pressure at that point was about 870 psi and a beautiful fountain of crude oil was the result. The operator did not notice anything until the crude spray reached him. He promptly panicked and jumped off the dozer, but he left his engine running. And in a matter of minutes the crude dripped off the engine cover and reached the red hot exhaust manifold and it ignited. The pipeline goes uphill out of Badanah and the next check valve was at Km 634 so there was a column of oil about 10 Km long draining back into the fire plus the oil that spilled out until Badanah was shut down. Anyway it was a good one.The additional problem was also that the dozer was in the center of the fire and it was glowing hot at night, you could clearly see it. So they covered it with sand and dirt so that the repair crew could get to the pipe and see how much damage there was. Well, we had plenty of leaks before but this on was special, because the Plidco half sleeves that would normally be used for such large holes, could not be used because the pipe was so badly deformed Whatever they tried the halve sleeves would not close tight so that a proper seal was possible. The pipe thickness was 5/16th and it is quite difficult to straighten it once it is deformed.

So they went at it with large sledge hammers and finally got the sleeve halves to seal. The burned up dozer was so hot that 2 days after the fire they moved the dirt from it and when they sprayed water on it, it turned to instant steam.

When Pipeline Maintenance became part of my responsibility, this type of badly deformed pipe section would have been repaired in a different manner using Weld Plus ends. The deformed section would be cut out and a new piece of the same lenght would be installed using Weld Plus ends. As these Weld Plus ends were not available in 1966, the Plidco method used was the only quick way of completing the repair.

The leak and subsequent fire was forgotten until sometime in late November. Ken Parr who was in charge of Employee Development received a letter from his nephew who worked for NASA. He wrote that they had this wonderful picture of the Sinai etc. etc. and after studying it they saw the black spot with what appeared to be a shadow of it on the ground. They suspected that it was an enormous fire, but nobody knew for sure. So as Ken worked in the M. E for an oil company, could he find out if there was a fire at such and such a date.

So that solved the riddle of the black spot. NASA sent us about 5 copies of the print and I got one of them but as I said , it is fading quite badly now.

Weld Plus

The Weld Plus ends used here were about 36 inches long and they have a row of radial bolts at each end along the circumference that were used to clamp the ends in place. The other set of bolts that were positioned longitudially are used to move a ring, that is positioned in a slot along with a heavy rubber seal. Turning these bolts will compress the rubber and seal the joint. We always used to backweld the sleeve on the pipe, cut off the bolts and cap them with weld.

These sleeves came in several diameters and lenghts and we later used them very often when we had deformed pipe to cope with and when sections of pipe had to be replaced.

John Makkinje, Jan. 2, 1999


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