NEW YORK (Jul. 15)
Construction will begin in Alexandria shortly of a 207-mile oil pipeline linking the Gulf of Suez with the Mediterranean. A contract to build the 42-inch, $175 million conduit was signed in Cairo Sunday by the Egyptian Government and an 11-nation consortium headed by France, the New York Times reported.
The pipeline project will employ 3,000 Egyptian construction workers and engineers and is expected to be in operation by 1971. It will rival an Israeli oil pipeline now under construction connecting the port of Eilat on the Gulf of Aqaba with Ashdod on the Mediterranean, the Times said.
The Times said that even if the Canal is re-opened the pipeline is expected to make a profit from transferring oil from supertankers that are too large to navigate the waterway. The route of the Egyptian pipeline will bring it no closer than 40 miles from the Suez Canal cease-fire line, well out of range of Israeli artillery on the canal’s east bank. This indicates, the Times said, that the pipeline’s southern terminus will be somewhere south of Port Suez.
The Egyptian pipeline will have an annual capacity of 60 million tons of oil, a little more than one-third of the petroleum moved through the Suez Canal in 1966, the last full operating year before the Canal was shut down by the Arab-Israeli war.
The contract with the SOCEA consortium was signed by Dr. Aziz Sidky, Egyptian Minister of Industry and Mineral Resources. In addition to five French companies, the consortium is made up of three Italian firms and one each from Britain, Spain and Holland. According to the report. Dr. Sidky forecast recently that Egypt’s own oil production would rise by the end of this year to a level of 20 million tons, a leap from six million tons in 1966. A further five million ton increase is expected by 1971, the Times reported. Much of the increase is from Egypt’s El Morgan field in the Gulf of Suez which went into production in April, 1967, two months before Israel occupied the Sinai Peninsula, previously Egypt’s main source of oil.