The Trans Arabian Pipeline: A Masterful Build
In 1947 Bechtel began work on the Trans-Arabian pipeline (Tapline), which transported oil across Saudi Arabia, Jordan, Syria, and Lebanon to tankers in the Mediterranean.
Until the construction of the pipeline, oil was moved south by tankers through the Arabian Gulf, Indian Ocean, Red Sea and the Suez Canal. This 3,500 mile trip took 12 days and cost oil companies 18 cents for every barrel that passed through the privately owned canal.
Construction of the pipeline began at Abqaiq field in Saudi Arabia, where oil wells churned out 200,000 barrels of oil every day.
The project encountered many obstacles including the remote location of many areas of the project and transporting the pipelines across the desert.
When the pipe arrived at the Persian Gulf port of Ras el Mish'ab, shallow waters prevented ships from getting close to shore. Field engineers helped solve that problem by developing the first overwater use of a cableway “skyhook” — borrowed from loggers in America’s Pacific Northwest— to transport pipe and supplies from ships anchored in deep water nearly 3 miles (4.8 kilometers) offshore.
The company also had to bring in trucks equipped with special low pressure sand tires to haul pipes across desert and plain. More than 1500 vehicles made up the desert fleet.
Bechtel was responsible for 850 miles of the pipeline, from the Arabian Gulf to Jordan. From Jordan, it continued to the city of Sidon, on Lebanon’s coast.
When constructed, the Tapline was the world's largest oil pipeline system.