Considered as a national heritage, Abadan oil refinery has been instrumental during four historical periods it has gone through.
When it comes to the history of oil in Iran, Abadan oil refinery is the first thing to strike the mind. This refinery is now expected to become of the best and the most modern refineries in the world.
Chapter I: Abadan Refinery Construction
Here is Abadan. In 1909, one year after oil was discovered in Masjed Soleyman, the Anglo-Persian Oil Company purchased one square mile of land in Bahmanshir area from Sheikh Khazal Bakhtiari, the local governor, and started building the most important oil refinery in the world. Due to proximity to oil wells and fresh water, the location of the refinery was proper. It could also serve as a favorable harbor for oil tankers and cargo vessels. Three years later, this refinery started work with a capacity of 2,500 b/d.
Chapter II: WWI, WWII
In the World War I, Abadan refinery was of great help to Britain’s war operations through oil refining. The British government seriously protected the treatment facility throughout WWI. The big war became a pretext for the development of the refinery to produce more fuel for warships. During WWII, after Allies lost Burma oil and refinery, Abadan refinery became the center of attention.
Abadan refinery had turned into the biggest refinery in the world. The refinery was reputed for its delivery of 25,000 b/d of jet fuel during WWII. Supply of gasoline to the Allies’ fighter jets by Abadan refinery was instrumental in their victory.
After oil industry was nationalized in Iran in 1951 and foreigners left Iran, maintenance of the refinery was assigned to Iranian staff and oil service workers. In 1954, an agreement was signed with the International Oil Consortium.
In August 1973, by virtue of Iran’s sovereignty on oil resources, administration of Abadan oil refinery was directly assigned to the National Iranian Oil Company (NIOC). After that, Abadan refinery was developed for its capacity to increase from 460,000 b/d to 600,000 b/d. After that development in September 1977, Abadan refinery regained its status as the largest refinery in the world.
Before the imposed war in 1980, Abadan refinery produced 108 types of products. It had the most sophisticated installations for exporting products, used natural gas as its main source of fuel and was fitted with the largest electronic measurement machinery. Therefore, it was considered the most important refinery in the world.
As revolutionary fervor gained momentum in November 1978, oil service workers at Abadan refinery went on a strike. The refinery’s output was cut from 600,000 b/d to 150,000 b/d. Within weeks, oil production in Iran plunged into crisis and the Shah regime came under heavy pressure.
Responding to an appeal by the late revolutionary founder Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini, the striking workers did not return to work. At the same time the military forces stopped distribution of kerosene in the country and that ramped up pressure on people. Therefore, the general strike ended and the refinery resumed production.
Chapter III: Iraq-Iran War
On September 21, 1980, workers were going to the refinery. But out of a sudden, loud explosions were held and the city of Abadan came under shelling. On September 23, the refinery was attacked by the forces of the former Baathist regime of Iraq. Abadan refinery was the first oil facility to be targeted by Iraqi warplanes. That was when a new chapter in efforts and sacrifices of the refinery workers started.
In the first step, the refinery’s staff established emergency committees and managed to stop any spill of oil substances despite destruction of installations under heavy bombing.
The formation of fuel committee to handle fuel distribution was a major wartime initiative at Abadan refinery. In those days, huge amounts of gasoline produced at Abadan refinery were stocked in soccer pitches. Another initiative was the production of gasoline with benzene. That was of great help to Iranian troops at the front.
Using technical and engineering facilities at the refinery to support the war was another case in point. The regular Army, the Islamic Revolution Guards Corps (IRGC) and other fighting forces used the refinery for their reparation affairs.
Chapter IV: Newest Middle East Refinery
In October 1988, several months after Iran accepted the UN-brokered Resolution 598, staff of all refineries across the country rushed to help the Abadan refinery. In the following years, a three-phase development plan was worked out for the refinery.
It seems that the development phases of the Abadan oil refinery would be completed in the coming years and Iran will once more become the owner of one of the most important and the most modern oil treatment facilities in the world.