20 AUGUST 1948, Page 16


Sin,—In The Advance of Oil in your issue of August 13th, Mr. A. L. B. Philip referring to the Petroleum Times' Review of Middle East Oil said: "Today Abadan is the largest refinery in the world and the home of some - 140,000 souls. To house, feed and provide for the physical, social and spiritual needs of this community has been a major task confronting the company,' reads the Review at one point. Surely this is carrying the game too far. That strange thing 'the company' cannot possibly manage to be architect, restaurateur, doctor, games-master and priest all at once. One or two of these things, possibly, and then only by way of unavoidable necessity. It would really have been more understandable if this passage had read 'Not to house, feed, &c., has been a major task confronting the company.'" If the Review has not made it clear that "the company" is literally and of sheer necessity "architect, restaurateur, doctor, games- master" and many other things beside, the fault is mine. If Mr. Philip were to visit Abadan he still might not realise this for, as I said elsewhere in the Review, "In the field area the gathering lines, the separators, the stabilisation plants, the workshops and the stores are easily recognised as the paraphernalia of a great oilfield, but in the camp, the club *Ind cinema, the guest house and the 24-hour laundry service are so reminiscent of pre-austerity Britain that one is apt to assume that they 'have always been there.' " But if he visited Abcraiq in Saudi Arabia, where oil operations are of such recent growth that the desert is as yet only partially conquered, it would become obvious that "the company" has to provide for every need of its employees. Forty years ago Abadan was also desert; but that ifis today a highly civilised community with water, electric light and water-borne sewerage, with hospitals, clinics, clubs, churches and cinemas, is entirely due to the activities of the company, which has not only created the necessity but also provided the materials and personnel for these amenities.

When, as a war-time member of the materials branch of the Petroleum Division, it was my duty to assist the oil companies to obtain the require- ments of materials and personnel for the maintenance of their overseas operations, I dealt, inter alia, with requests for assistance to obtain for Abadan a fishing smack, a pedigree bull and a padre.—Yours faithfully, Brettenham House, Lancaster Place, C. T. BARBER Strand, W.C.z. (Joint Editor of Petroleum Times).