King ‘Abd al-‘Aziz

Reigned 1902 – 1953

The story of Saudi Aramco begins with the vision of King ‘Abd al-‘Aziz who, aware of oil discoveries elsewhere in the region, sought the expertise of an international oil company to explore his kingdom for the natural resources that would allow him to guide the development of his young country. On May 29, 1933, after months of negotiations, the King’s minister of finance signed the Concession Agreement with Standard Oil of California, or Socal, an act that would eventually transform Saudi Arabia and the global petroleum industry.

 

King ‘Abd al-‘Aziz had to wait nearly five years for his bold move to yield results, as the California Arabian Standard Oil Company, or Casoc, as the Company was now called, endured hardships and difficult conditions, suffering setbacks along the way until, on the verge of pulling out of the King ‘Abd al-‘Aziz, on his first visit to Company operations in Ras Tanura, turned a valve that sent the first tanker load of Saudi oil to the world.
arrangement, Casoc struck oil in commercial quantities on March 3, 1938, at Dammam Well No. 7.

Little more than a year later, King ‘Abd al-‘Aziz, on his first visit to Company operations in Dhahran and Ras Tanura, on May 1 turned a valve that sent the first tanker load of Saudi oil to the world. The next year, Casoc discovered the Abqaiq field, the first sign that Saudi Arabia could contain vast petroleum reserves and that the Company, renamed the Arabian American Oil Company, or Aramco, in 1944, had the potential to become one of the most important oil companies in world history.

Both the Government and Aramco endured lean times during World War II, as exploration was curtailed and production cut back, but once the war was over, Aramco began expanding rapidly, one example of which was the start-up of the Ras Tanura Refinery in late 1945.

In the Founder’s Footsteps

Reading congratulatory cables, Ras Tanura, 1939

Coming aboard the D.G. Scofield, Ras Tanura, 1939

Receiving Aramco families, Dhahran, 1947

Inaugurating the Dammam-Riyadh railroad, Riyadh, 1950

King ‘Abd al-‘Aziz paid his last visit to Aramco in January 1947, when, among other activities, he personally received about 200 American employees, their wives and children. In a sign of Aramco’s growing significance to the global petroleum industry, in 1948 Standard Oil of New Jersey and Socony-Vacuum Oil (both now ExxonMobil) joined Socal and Texaco (now Chevron) as owners of Aramco, providing distribution networks and international markets for the enormous reserves and production potential of Aramco.

Two important cross-country projects were completed under the guidance of King ‘Abd al-‘Aziz in the first years of the next decade. The Trans-Arabian Pipeline, or Tapline, completed in 1951, delivered Saudi crude oil faster and more economically to European markets. The following year, Aramco completed the Saudi Government Railroad from Dammam to Riyadh, linking the capital city to the port of Dammam, which Aramco also constructed.

In 1952, the year before the death of King ‘Abd al-‘Aziz, in a move symbolic of the growing importance of Saudi Arabia to the world’s oil business, Company headquarters was moved from New York City to Dhahran.