The Government Puts Its Foot Down… Slowly: Yemen Hunt Engineers Repair Holes in the Pipeline [Archives:1998/33/Reportage]

August 17 1998

It was a rare sight. A convoy of Yemen Hunt Oil Company (YHOC) trucks carrying engineers and other personnel peacefully driving in “Indian Country” – Khowlan. They were there on a previously agreed arrangement in order to repair holes on the pipeline carrying oil to Ras Issa on the Red Sea.
It was Friday, August 14th. It was early in the morning. First stop was Birbirah in Al-Yamaniyah Al-Souflah in Khowlan. A hole at kilometer 160 needed fixing.
That means filling up the holes with brass, once pressure per square inch (psi) is reduced to 70, roughly 10% of the usual pressure. After that, the team moved further deep into Khowlan – to kilometer 135 in Bait Dowam in Al-Aroosh. Another bracelet is fixed.

One problem is what to do with the tar and other pollutant material that covers the land. YHOC brought graders, cranes, and other equipment to dig big holes and bury the stuff.
The tribesmen were not concerned with the pollutant stuff. They had their eyes set on the equipment. They wanted to keep them.
More work needs to be done kms 94, 96.05, and 103. It takes about a full day of work at each location. The problem is lots of bickering and to hold at bay tribal bounty hunters. But the patch-up work went ahead.
One observer noted, if the trend of repairs continues, a good part of the pipeline will have a second layer of pipeline coverings – the bracelets that mask the holes, at the rate of US$150,000 a hole.
Meanwhile, Khowlan had agreed to a six-month truce to its on-going ‘war’ with neighboring Sanhan. Khowlan also worked out a one-year internal truce within its factions, ostensibly to attend to matters with Sanhan.
Tribal rivalry between the much larger Khowlan with Sanhan, whose people are at the helm of power in Yemen today, has been a major headache.
But Friday was Good Friday. No incidents, and the YHOC team of engineers came back happy – mission successfully completed. I cam back late at night from this adventurous journey. I was able to see first hand how the military commanders and the YHOC were kissing up to the tribes. Well, they wanted to get the work done, which they did.
One thought. If you want to join in these trips. Just go there. You can even get a free ride. Nobody takes tally or asks questions.
Yemen Times journalist,
travelling in cognito on the mission.