Agence France Presse
Published — Monday 24 February 2003
Last Update 24 February 2003 3:00 am
JEDDAH, 24 February 2003 — Saudi Arabia has boosted its strategic storage capacity for oil products to several million barrels after opening a new underground facility in the south of the country.
The new stockpiling facility inaugurated this week by Prince Sultan, second deputy premier and minister of defense and aviation, is the third of five strategic underground sites. The storage facilities were constructed under an SR11 billion Saudi Strategic Storage Program aimed at ensuring supplies during wartime.
The first two facilities were opened in Riyadh in February 1999 and in Jeddah in August last year. Two more sites are under construction in Madinah and Buraidah, the capital of the central Qasim Region.
The site at Madinah, 65 percent complete, is expected to be ready later this year while the facility in Buraidah, about halfway through, is slated for inauguration next year.
The five storage facilities, constructed in the form of large cavern tanks, have a capacity of over 12 million barrels of different oil products, including gasoline, jet fuel, diesel and lubricants. Caverns, which measure 400 meters (880 feet) long, 30 meters (66 feet) high and 20 meters (44 feet) wide, are dug at depths reaching 190 meters and have a capacity of 900,000 barrels of fuel.
Under the program, some 700-km (440 miles) of pipelines will be constructed to link storage facilities with refineries and to distribution centers.
The facilities are designed to meet the Kingdom’s requirements of oil products for several months in times of emergency.
At peacetime, the project will become a part of Saudi Aramco’s distribution system. At times of crisis, the project supplies the armed forces and vital civilian sectors such as industry, transport and agriculture.
Saudi Aramco is responsible for the operation, supply and maintenance of the storage facilities, which are linked to the company’s operation control center in Dhahran.
The facilities are also supervised by the Ministry of Defense, which takes decisions during emergencies. The program is a part of the emergency national plan for supplying and distributing oil products.
The Abha facility is linked to a nearby Jizan distribution center through a 245-km pipeline. The Jeddah facility is supplied by the Jeddah Refinery through a 43-km pipeline. The whole project has been designed and executed in cooperation with contractor ABV Rock Group of Sweden.