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Europe: Vital New Artery

2 minute read

To a ceremonial blast from its 5 o’clock siren, the first oil refinery to rise in southern Germany was inaugurated in Karlsruhe last week. Built by Jersey Standard, the $57.5-million plant will process 3,600,000 tons of crude a year—but its significance goes beyond these impressive figures. The new plant will draw its crude from a new and vital petroleum artery: the Rhone River Valley pipeline, which provides the first link from the Mediterranean into oil-hungry south-central Europe and helps to meet the commercial threat of the Russian pipe network now reaching toward the West through the Iron Curtain countries.

Stretching 485 miles (see map), the $120 million line took two years to lay, consumed 80,000 sections of 34-in. pipe, and was financed by a consortium of 16 firms from six countries—West Germany, France, The Netherlands, Belgium, Great Britain, the U.S. It will take Middle East and Algerian oil from tankers and channel it to twelve departments of eastern France, to the northern half of Switzerland and to a southern portion of Germany that accounts for 40% of all West German oil consumption. By eliminating overland haulage and the 2,000-mi.-plus roundabout ocean voyage to North Sea ports, it stands to ease the costs of gasoline and fuel oil; in Karlsruhe last week Esso trimmed gasoline prices ½¢-1½¢ per gallon.

The pipeline also promises to work an industrial transformation. Along its route four new refineries have already sprouted, two at Karlsruhe and two at Strasbourg; two more are under construction at Worth-Rhein and Mannheim north of Karlsruhe, and France is building a seventh refinery near Lyon. Moreover, work is already under way on a 156-mile extension of the pipeline from Karlsruhe into Bavaria, where at least four more refineries are planned by 1966. The Italians are also entering the area with a new pipeline from Genoa over the Alps into southern Bavaria. Before long, possibly 16 refineries and a score of oil-using petrochemical plants will dot the countryside as symbols of the power revolution that oil is bringing to Europe.

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