Trans-Arabian Pipeline – 1947

It’s 1947. War is over, people want oil and Saudi Arabia is almost nothing but a giant empty desert. But there’s oil. Lots of it.

Sending ships around the gulf takes about 3,500 miles… but if you built a pipeline to the Mediterranian it would be about 1000 miles and could operate more or less continuously.

Enter the largest American civil engineering company – Bechtel.  This video (courtesy of them, so take it for what it’s worth) documents their remarkable feat. From literally an empty desert they bootstrap and build all of the necessary machinery and goods to get the job done.  The straight sections through the desert are fairly smooth sailing (though fascinating) but once you get closer to the Medetrain the terrain changes – not only physically but the political situations in various countries forces changes in plan, and even a CIA-sponsored coup in Syria.  I’m sure it’s an oversight Betchtel forgets to mention that part.

If you were an oil consumer in America or northern Europe from 1950 through about 1976 you likely, at least sometimes, used oil that came through that line.

Amazingly, copies of their almost monthly magazine are online.

 

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