Oilmen call it a high-pressure gas trap but as it inched downward from the deck of the freighter toward the squat barge below it looked like a missile on its way to Cape Kennedy.
The trap had already had a long voyage, but there was still more ahead. From the pier at Ras Tanura on the Arabian Gulf it still had to go by trailer-truck to North Shedgum halfway between the towns of Abqaiq and Hofuf in the Ghawar oil field on the eastern coast of Saudi Arabia.
In North Shedgum not long ago the Arabian American Oil Company (Aramco) began to expand operations at its Gas-Oil Separation Plant, one of the famous GOSP's of oil literature. GOSP's are relatively simple plants, no more, really, than a series of huge steel cylinders through which petroleum from the oil fields flows on its way to be stored, stabilized or refined. At this stage, however, oil contains a large proportion of dissolved gas under high pressure. The gas must be separated from the oil and piped off. The separation is achieved by routing the flow into, first, what is called a "high-pressure trap," second, a "low-pressure trap" and, finally, a spheroid tank. At each stage the pressure is reduced and some gas released until the point is reached at which the oil can be moved along.
To expand this operation, Aramco recently imported and installed the new high-pressure and low-pressure tanks as shown on these pages.