A proud King smiles — a major milestone in the industrialization of his nation is about to be realized. As the monarch cuts the ceremonial ribbon the energy and excitement in the room is palpable. Saudi Arabia had just taken a giant leap in its industrial development — Berri Gas Plant (BGP) had come online.
The year was 1977, and the effects of the royal inauguration by King Khalid ibn ‘Abd Al-’Aziz Al Sa’ud would be felt across the nation. Industrially, the Kingdom had come of age. As it celebrates four decades of service, BGP is as important as ever.
A master plan
In 1975 the Saudi government undertook the decision to construct the Master Gas System (MGS) — at the time one of the most ambitious and largest engineering and construction projects ever undertaken by any nation. It was a time of unprecedented growth for both the company and the Kingdom. The Saudi workforce was evolving with qualified engineers and technicians now available to enter the work arena.
The MGS would resemble an electricity grid, offering a ready supply of varying forms of gas to domestic customers, and via export, globally. For years, the associated gas that was found in crude oil was not recovered — mainly due to technological and economic factors. But the global market took a shift. Rising energy costs, coupled with energy and conservation concerns, made the requirements for gathering and processing associated gas both practical and profitable.
The MGS would be the backbone of a new era in the Kingdom and Aramco had the know-how, the people, and the trust of the government to execute the ambitious program.
“Berri Gas Plant, in many ways, is the foundation stone of the new industrial age that occurred in the Kingdom in the late 70s,” says BGP manager Khalid A. Al Harthi. “It was the kick-start, the first facility in the Master Gas System and then others followed, but it was Berri that got the ball rolling,” says Al Harthi.
After the successful startup at Berri, other components of the MGS were completed in rapid succession with the commissioning of Shedgum Gas Plant, Ju’aymah Fractionation Plant and Liquefied Petroleum Gas (LPG) loading and exporting pier in 1980. A year later saw the operational startup of the East-West Pipeline and ‘Uthmaniyah Gas Plant, followed in 1982 by the commissioning of the Yanbu’ Fractionation Plant and LPG export facilities. The MGS was up and running.