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The Oil Pipeline

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A vivid description of the Mosul oil pipeline recently opened between Kirkuk and Haifa was given here by Sir John Cadman, chairman of the Iraq Petroleum Company, which built the line. Describing the problems encountered and the precautions taken in building the twin lines of pipes, Sir John said:

“The ceremony inaugurating the pipeline was the climax of a series of planned and connected operations in the finding, production and transportation of oil which have called for ten years of constant and progressive effort. These operations have secured, by result, that oil from two (or three, or four) kilometres below the ground-surface of these hills of Kirkuk, can now run (invisible in its buried pipes, but accurately measured, safely and perfectly controlled) into the holds of ships in the harbors of the Mediterranean Sea.


“The task thus accomplished has created, as was to be expected, demands far beyond the reach of any but a few, even of the great, oil companies or combines of the world. It is legitimate—and I hope not boastful—to say that Iraq has been wise in entrusting the exploration and exploitation of that field to a body international in its component elements, backed by enormous material resources, and able to attract to its works the most skillful and experienced engineers in the industry.

“The starting point of our whole pipeline system is itself fed by the oil of all or many of the numerous producing wells to which it is linked up by pipes passing through one or other of the three de-gassing stations. From the station tanks the oil is pumped, by machinery down what is in effect two pipes, the one stretching continuously from here to the Port of Haifa in Palestine, the other to Tripoli on the Syrian coast. The former is some 625 miles in length, the latter 535. These two lines run parallel from their starting-point across the Hawijah and the Jazirah for a distance of 150 miles. They then bifurcate a few miles beyond Haditha. After the bifurcation, the oil of the northern line is forced on by four more pumping stations spaced out between the Euphrates and the Syrian seaboard; that of the southern line by five.


“The task of bringing such a system into existence (involving some half-million tons of costly, bulky, various and complicated materials, with a corresponding number of all types of personnel, skilled and unskilled required to handle them) would in any surroundings have been formidable. In fact it has involved the transport of everything and everybody over scores—nay, hundreds—of miles of waterless, roadless and unpeopled steppes, railhead at Baiji on the Tigris being separated by 480 miles from that of Mafraq in Trans-Jordan, and by 420 miles from that of Homs in Syria.

“It has involved the crossing of four famous rivers (Tigris, Euphrates, Jordan and Orontes) and innumerable dry stream-beds and desert ravines: the stringing, assembling, welding, wrapping and burying of score after score of miles of massive pipe across the dust and gypsum of the Jazirah, the sand and rock and scanty camel-pastures of the great Shamiyah desert the Lava waste and the broken hill-country of Trans-Jordan and the deep depression of the Ghor.


“The difficulties resulting from such a terrain have been overcome by the soundness of the general conception of our task which preliminary technical study, first-hand knowledge from the spot, and experience gained elsewhere, were able to frame.

“We have had further advantages. We have enjoyed the good will of the public, in villages and desert tribes alike. With scarcely an exception, we have done our work under conditions of law and order which could not be improved. We have experienced among our thousands of workpeople a remarkable immunity from disease—the result of scrupulous medical control. We have suffered a smaller number of accidents than the most hopeful would have predicted. We have been fortunate in the smooth working of our arrangements for feeding and housing a labor force which, on pipe-line construction in Iraq alone, reached and exceeded 6,000 men.”

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