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.
King Khalid ibn 'Abd Al-'Aziz Al Sa'ud officially opened the Berri facility in the presence of then Saudi Aramco president and CEO Frank Jungers.
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.
Sulfur is prepared at Berri Gas Plant to be sent to King Fahd Industrial Port in Jubail for export. Sulfur is a major component in fertilization products.
Saeed Al Qahtani (left) and Abdullah Al Qahtani
Generation to Generation
For some Aramcons, working at Berri Gas Plant has become a family tradition.
Twenty-four-year-old Abdullah Al Qahtani, an instrument technician at Berri Gas Plant, is a graduate of Saudi Aramco’s Industrial Training Center. It was his uncle, Saeed Al Qahtani, a 35-year veteran at BGP, who gave him encouragement to join the organization.
The elder Al Qahtani retired from the company in 2013, after having been in charge of sulfur export at the plant. For Abdullah, it’s a source of pride that his uncle bore such a responsibility.
“My uncle is still well known at Berri, and that is something that gives me great pride. I hope I can follow in his footsteps and be successful here too,” said Abdullah. “The atmosphere is positive here and we receive a lot of training, especially in new technologies.”
Despite his young age, Abdullah has already found himself working on a recent major processes control upgrade project at the plant.
“We are working hand-in-hand with more experienced employees,” he says. “This makes us passionate about our work and allows us to be good role models.”
Human Resources Hub
Serving as a training and human resources hub helping to produce qualified engineers and technicians in addition to many senior company leaders, Berri has become synonymous with employee development.
There’s no doubt that the complexity and diversity of the operations at BGP are a main factor in this. For young engineers, BGP is a place to cut your teeth.
“There is a legacy in Berri for developing people,” says Al Harthi. “It has been like that since the beginning — it seems it is part of Berri’s DNA.”
BGP has received engineers and technicians from Khursaniyah, Wasit, and Fadhili Gas Plants who spent extended time at the facility learning the ropes from experienced hands. In fact, knowledge transfer was an early concept at the plant.
“We have a well-established operator training program that has been in place for some time. It is important as we have senior technicians and operators who have been here for more than 20 years and transferring their experience to the next generation is crucial,” says Al Harthi.
“The pride you feel is carrying the torch that was lit by the early pioneers at the plant. The history and legacy here is amazing. From the work done to help kick-start the Master Gas System to the incredible efforts put into developing and training employees. We are celebrating 40 years, and one thing is for sure, just like a true patriot, Berri Gas Plant will keep powering forward — for another 40 years.”