Background information on Tapline.


Excerpts from Handbook for American Employees, Volume 1, 1952 as issued by Arabian American Oil Company. Prepared by Roy Lebkicher.

Page 45:


By the autumn of 1943, the authorities in the United States had become concerned about the enormous drain upon American oil fields in "oiling" the war-to use an expression of Mr. Ickes, then Secretary of the Interior, who was responsible for coordinating the efforts of the oil industry. It was felt by him and the military authorities that foreign sources of oil must be quickly made available. A government corporation, Petroleum Reserves Corporation, had been formed to make public funds available if necessary to further such developments. A mission of this corporation, headed by De-Golyer, the well-known geologist, and including Dr. Wrather, Director of the United States Geological Survey, and C. S. Snodgrass, Director of the Foreign Refining division of the Petroleum Administration for War, made an inspection trip to Saudi Arabia and other countries of the Middle East in the late months of 1943.

A few weeks thereafter, Saudi Arabian oil broke prominently into the headlines of American newspapers with an announcement that the United States Government intended to acquire an interest in Aramco and would finance the construction of a refinery at Ras Tanura and a pipeline from the Persian Gulf to the Mediterranean Sea. This idea, however, aroused a great deal of opposition. Such governmental participation in the field of private industry was not compatible with the traditional American concept. Independent oil producers feared that the government -financed pipeline would place them at a competitive disadvantage.

The project was abandoned. Instead, however, full approval was given for the construction of a 50,000-barrel-per-day refinery by Aramco itself, to be financed by the parent owners of the Company. High military priorities were to be assigned to the steel and other critical materials required, trucks and other equipment which could be spared from Army stocks were to be sold to the Company, and the military authorities were to cooperate fully in the movement of materials and men by means of air and sea transport, which was all under military control and allocation. The construction project involved not only the refinery, but new storage tanks, loading lines and a long new T-shaped pier and wharf , at which tankers could dock, to supplement the anchorage of former days. Also approved was the construction of a submarine pipeline from Arabia to Bahrein, where the Bapco refinery was also being enlarged as part of the foreign oil expansion program. ...............

Page 49


........... After a production of less than 20,000 barrels of oil daily prior to 1944, the daily average had increased to over 246,000 barrels for the year 1947. It passed the 300,000 barrel mark at the beginning of 1948, and as 1949 began it had passed 500,000. This increase of twenty-five-fold in five years was only accomplished, of course, by a heavy investment of money, materials and effort since there is a tremendous gap between petroleum trapped deep in the earth and oil and oil products flowing into tankers at ports twenty - five to seventy - five miles away.

The developments described above were largely related to a rapid expansion in facilities and production as Aramco s part of an effort running throughout the world oil industry to meet the requirements of an oilhungry world between 1945 and 1949. As mentioned in a previous chapter, however, there was a turning point in 1949, when trade and currency problems too complex for discussion here resulted in a small reduction in world oil consumption. Not knowing how long this situation would last, most of the oil companies, including Aramco, curtailed or deferred projects for further expansion of capacity. Aramco canceled plans for additional enlargement of its organization, which had been growing rapidly until the spring of 1949, and, indeed , its manpower was gradually reduced during the ensuing months. So were its oil production and its refinery operations, which were smaller at the end of 1949 and in the early months of 1950 than at the beginning of 1949.

In the spring of 1950 there was a sudden resumption of a high level and upward trend of world demand which the oil companies had not anticipated and for which Aramco, among others, was not altogether prepared. Demands upon Aramco required the maximum utilization of all of its surface facilities and active preparations for further enlargement of capacity. The principal step in this direction was to rush to completion a gas-oil separator in the Ain Dar field and to construct a 20-22-24-inch pipeline from Ain Dar to Abqaiq. This work was completed at the close of 1950, and Ain Dar crude oil started moving into world markets as 1951 was ushered in. The tempo of drilling in this field was greatly accelerated.

Total daily production passed the 600,000-barrel mark in the summer of 1950.

While these 1950 developments were taking place, the great project for transporting a large part of Aramco's production to the Mediterranean Sea by pipeline was being brought to completion.

The transportation of large quantities of oil from the Persian Gulf to the Mediterranean on its way to European markets is in itself, of course, a major problem even in this day of large undertakings. The distance that a tank ship must travel between Ras Tanura and the Mediterranean is about 3,600 statute miles, and the trip takes nine days each way.

The unfulfilled proposal made in early 1944 by certain government authorities for the building of a pipeline with United States Government funds as a war measure was mentioned above. Before the end of that year steps were being taken by Aramco's parent companies toward making the project a reality as a private undertaking. The first step was, of course, a thorough engineering study, which confirmed that a pipeline was both feasible and advantageous.

This was the inception of the project for a pipeline from eastern Saudi Arabia to the Mediterranean, a project belonging partly to Aramco and partly to Trans-Arabian Pipe Line Company ("Tapline"), an affiliated company. The problems entailed and their solution make an interesting story in itself to which this account cannot do full justice. The project involved the laying of the largest crude oil pipeline in the world over a distance (nearly 1,100 miles) as great as the airline distance from Miami to New York or from Vancouver, B. C., to Los Angeles. Most of the line crosses desert lands previously occupied only by bedouins. The original route surveyors, and the drillers who put down water wells for the proposed pumping stations, were the first Westerners to set foot on some parts of the route. Engineering problems required solutions which ventured into new ground or established new records. The shipment of pipe and materials and the movement of men were larger in volume and involved longer overseas voyages than any previous single project undertaken in peacetime. A novelty was introduced in fabricating the pipe in two diameters, 30 and 31 inches, which permitted the nesting of two joints, one inside the other, thus doubling ship capacity and halving transportations costs. In order to reduce the number of manual welds required in joining the lengths of pipe along the route, special equipment was designed and built to weld three joints together mechanically at the construction terminals. This process also required the design and manufacture of mammoth-sized trucks and trailers capable of hauling railroad freight carloads of 50 tons or more as the large pipe was hauled to location in 3-joint lengths of about 93 feet. Still another innovation in the oil industry was the spectacular "'Sky-Hook" at Ras Misha'ab, where port, camp and construction facilities were established. The "SkyHook" is an overhead cable system, nearly three miles in length, over which pipe joints were carried from ship to shore. Although the basic idea was borrowed from the logging industry, changes in design and special construction of the equipment were required for this project.

Plans for the pipeline were crystallized in December, 1946, and shipments of pipe commenced November 3, 1947.

The original plan was to commence construction at both ends at about the same time. Unfortunately, political disturbance resulting from the Palestine dispute required postponement of work on the western end of the line, which did not get under way until the autumn of 1949. Construction in Saudi Arabia had meanwhile been proceeding steadily. The final weld connecting western and eastern sections of the line was made September 25, 195o. The first oil reached Sidon November 10, and the first tanker was loaded December 2, 1950.

Aramco owns and operates the eastern portion of the pipeline system, up to and including the tank farm at Qaisumah. The portion owned and operated by TransArabian Pipe Line Company extends from Qaisumah to the five-berth tanker loading terminal near Sidon, Lebanon, a pipeline distance of 752.8 miles.

There are two pump stations in the Aramco section, at Abqaiq and Narlya. The Tapline section has four pump stations, all in Saudi Arabia-Qaisumah, Rafha) Badanah and Turaif -names applied to locations selected in the open desert which have become small communities. The Aramco section can be utilized for the movement of oil either to Sidon or to Ras. Tanura, and any future oil fields that may be discovered adjacent to the line .........