Shedgum-Yanbu gas pipeline: a project in Saudi Arabia with 45 years of history to its name
Exactly 45 years after this 1,166-km long Gas Pipeline started operations in Saudi Arabia, Techint Engineering & Construction employees who were involved in its construction met up to exchange their memories of their experiences. Mario Mangiantini, head of Human Resources for the project, shares his recollection of some of the main challenges.
Forty-five years have passed since Mario Mangiantini moved to Saudi Arabia to join the Shedgum-Yanbu project, where he lived for 20 months. To this day, he remembers the scorching temperatures in the desert, the cadence of the many different languages heard on the construction site —and the myriad difficulties of communicating with Argentina.
"This was an amazing feat that involved a supreme effort in terms of logistics. We set up 23 mobile crew camps that grew in line with the work as it developed, to the point where we had 4,000 people working on the site," recalls Mangiantini.
The weather was a major problem as the extreme temperatures, which sometimes rose as far as 55° C, made it very hard for employees to carry out their tasks.
Multiculturalism was a key feature of the work, with workers hailing from 34 different countries. "It looked and felt like the United Nations, we had these large communities of Arabs, Thais, Turks and Filipinos all working together. The important thing was that we were incredibly respectful of differences and made a huge effort to ensure that the work began and ended without any negative effects, including cultural ones," he points out.
Mario also remembers how there were special dining areas for different groups, including barbecues and typical Argentine meals for those so inclined! There was even an entertainment manager at the worksite whose job was to organize sports contests, such as soccer matches, bowling and even tennis championships, with the emphasis on building an increasingly strong and united team. "It was a good feeling, we were all on the same team," reminisces Mario.
A long way from home
Uprooting and travelling so far to live in such a different culture was perhaps one of the most problematic issues to overcome. Time off came round every six months and you could only return to Argentina for two weeks. "This was quite a different era. We were stuck in the middle of the desert, with no communication with our families, living in a country with a completely different culture," Mario explains. Mangiantini's wife lived in Zárate and letters, "snail mail", took between 10 and 12 days to get there. As at the time, not every home had its own landline telephone, she had to go to a neighbor's to be able to get his calls.
"Many people felt like they’d had enough and wanted to leave at certain times, so being able to provide support and contain them when they felt like this was very important. The whole thing about this project was that it constantly challenged our ability and willingness to change. That’s why we focused so strongly on creating a community and sharing common values," he adds.
Despite all the adversities, the Techint E&C megaproject enabled the link-up between the separation and processing plant in Shedgum in the Persian Gulf, to the fractionation plant in Yanbu, on the Red Sea coast, a total of 1,166 kilometers of gas pipeline.