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Development of Egypt's oil fields, along the Sinai coast of the Gulf of Suez, required that a wellhead be installed some 1km out from the shoreline, in a location where shallow depths precluded the use of conventional, and typically expensive, offshore-type plant and structures.

The solution was to construct an island platform, with a causeway link to the shore, enabling more-economical land-based exploration and production drilling rigs to be transported to and used at the well site, without modification. [Google Earth™ .kmz placemark file here]

Andrew Sadleir - as an engineer with Peter Fraenkel & Partners, consultants for the Belayim Petroleum Company (“Petrobel”) - was entrusted with the design of the island.

In the absence of any records for local wave climate, design incident wave height and direction, for the purposes of armour design and plan orientation, were derived from wind data, using ‘traditional’ hindcasting and shoaling analysis techniques.

Island location, chosen by the Client from the several options presented, was a compromise between wellhead positioning constraints and local bathymetry, which was used to advantage.

Construction took the form of an armoured rock bund, for which material was specially quarried from the abundant local basalt outcrops; with a core of compacted sand fill.

Artificial island techniques had been successful elsewhere, but were new to this region, albeit that the type of construction employed was fairly conventional. Client Petrobel had appointed an Egyptian state-owned contractor, Petrojet, at that time still inexperienced in this type of work; and the project began to fall behind programme. As designer, Sadleir was therefore asked to spend several months on site, commencing in April 1982, to provide practical technical guidance to the Contractor, and quality control on behalf of the Client.

Progress inspection from a helicopter: placing of secondary armour layer nears completion.

flag: Arab Republic of Egypt

Artificial Island at El Belayim, Suez