An editing error in a story on a new Saudi Arabian pipeline published June 22 changed the meaning to say that Petromin, the Saudi Arabian oil company, was awarded the contract for the pipeline. It should have said that Petromin awarded the contract to other companies.
The Saudi government gave the final go-ahead yesterday for construction of a 750-mile pipeline that will cut across the entire Arabian paninsula to link Persian Gulf oil wells with the Red Sea and establish a major alternate oil transportation route.
The strategic significance of the $400 million project, scheduled for completion by 1980, is that it will free Saudi Arabia from its complete dependence on the Persian Gulf routes and thus diminish Saudi concern about security in the Gulf area.
"Saudi Arabia has only one export outlet," said Sheikh Zaki Yamani, the Saudi minister of petroleum and mineral resources. And this outlet, the Gulf, "can be blockaded," he added.
Petromin, the Saudi national oil company, was awarded the contract for construction of the pipeline from the eastern oil field terminal of Abqaiq to the Red Sea village of Yanbu. When completed, it will be able to feed tankers bound primarily for Europe with as much oil as is now flowing through the Trans-Alaska pipeline from the North Slope oil fields.
Yamani, in a speech last April at the University of Riyadh, warned that the Soviet Union was following a strategy designed to secure a supply of Middle East oil for the future. The coup d'etat in Afghanistan by the leftist Khalaq (Masses) Party heightened tensions in the Gulf region.
Yanbu, today a sleepy fishing village of about 20,000 residents, is located 220 miles north of Jeddah across the Red Sea from the southern tip of Egypt. Current plans are to utilize the port for oil shipments via an expanded Suez Canal and the recently completed Sumed pipeline that parallels the canal route along its western side. Saudi Arabia exports 40 percent of its oil to Europe.
The troubled Horn of Africa lies well south of Yanbu.
Under Saudi Arabia's current planning, Yanbu will become one of the largest petroleum complexes in the Middle East by the end of the century. A liquid natural gas pipeline will run alongside the oil line to feed a $1 billion gas fractionation plant. The crude oil line will feed two refineries with a capacity of 670,000 barrels per day as well as providing 1.6 million barrels a day of crude for export. A giant $1 billion petrochemicals factory is also planned.
Petromin awarded construction contracts for the pipeline to SAIPEM, an Italian firm under the Italian national oil conglomerate ENI; Sedco, a Houston-based petroleum engineering firm; and Cat, a Lebanese engineering company. The work will be surpervised by Mobil Oil Corporation's Mobil Pipeline Co.
"This project is like building the Trans-Alaska pipeline through the desert," a Mobil official said.
Daytime temperatures in the regions the pipeline will cross reach as high as 125 degrees Fahrenheit.