First Air Train at Bibian Refinery

Tuesday, January 30, 2018First Air Train at Bibian Refinery

The industrial-scale production of oil in Masjid-i-Soleyman (MIS) required mounting specific installations, some of which emerged in Iran for the first time in history. A case in point was an air train linking Bibian refinery to Tombi railway station.

This air road, which was 10 kilometers long, used to transfer sulfur from Bibian refinery to Tombi before being loaded on trains to be transported to Darkhazineh jetty and reach Abadan and Ahvaz on tugboats. The sulfur used in this way was either consumed domestically or exported.

Some oil wells in MIS contained a large amount of sour gas, whose sulfur content is high and whose consumption required separation of sulfur. The first treatment facilities which had been built in Bibian area of MIS to process oil handled such task. That was when the Abadan refinery, the first oil treatment facility in the Middle East, had yet to be built and become operational. Of course, the small-sized Bibian refinery was still working even years after the Abadan refinery came online. Sour gas was transferred to Bibian refinery to be converted into a red-colored liquid in the sulfur manufacturing section. This pipeline was carried into two pools in pipelines. Outside the factory, two workers dressed in special overall and holding hoes spread the liquid in the pools such that the liquid was as high as 10 centimeters in the pools.

Having been thrown into the pools, the red liquid turned yellow after exposure to weather. Then, it was converted from liquid to solid state. After that, the solid sulfur were broken into pieces with axes and taken away in wheelbarrows to roofed depots.

In order to transfer sulfur to the railway station, an air train (similar to what we know today as cable car) was used. In this system, each wagon was loaded with sulfur after passing through the depot. After that, the wagons were cabled up and after crossing long poles they travelled a distance of around 10 kilometers as far away as Darkhazineh Port off the Karoun River. At the end of the road, the wagons unloaded sulfur into freight wagons before making a U-turn and take the way back for the resumption of transfer and loading operations.

The interesting thing was that throughout the route back certain facilities had been mounted to avoid sulfur being thrown on the road where vehicles and trucks ran.

Another thing that is still stuck in my memory is that schoolchildren used to coat statues with sulfur and present as handicraft. Clay statues were given to workers who worked at sulfur pools or Bibian refinery and they dipped them into melting sulfur. The product was attractive lemon-colored statues coated with sulfur.

One day, a group of workers had decided to use the Bibian cable care to reach Tombi. They get on one of them and decide to jump out when the cable car unloads sulfur and takes the way back. But at the end of the road, they fail to jump out on time and they fall into the freight wagons that were waiting to receive sulfur. It was not the end of story. After that other sulfur-carrying cable cars arrive and dump sulfur over them.

Later on, sour gas was piped from MIS to Mahshahr Petrochemical Plant. As far as I know, today there remains only two pools from all those facilities.