Ghardaïa is a large oasis in the middle of the Sahara about 500 km south of Algiers. Actually the oasis comprises five fortified towns Ghardaïa, Bou Noura, Melika, El-Atteuf and holy Beni-Izguent occupied by the Mozabite people who fled here from the north to escape religious persecution in the 11th century.
The holy city of Beni-Izguent in closed and locked at night to ensure that no infidel spend a night there.
Below, scenes in the narrow streets of Beni-Izguent.
The oasis is quite prosperous because of its large date production.
Below, that's me in Arab dress in Ghardaïa on the left and in my usual business suit in Hassi Messaoud on the right.
The huge (1600 sq km) and deep (4 000 m) Hassi Messaoud oil field was discovered in the Sahara by the French in 1956.
The very comfortable tree planted living quarters in the center of this photo are separated from the production facilities on the right for obvious reasons of security.
Here are the production facilities as they were when I worked there back in 1964. They must be several times larger now! My work here involved the long compressor building in the top of this photo.
The oil produced from the 4 000 m deep field contained natural gas that was flared in large quantities lighting up the desert sky for kilometres.
This was highly wasteful not only because of the lost gas but more importantly because extracting gas reduced the reservoir pressure driving production naturally.
It was therefore decided to re-inject the natural gas that came out with the oil so as to maintain the reservoir pressure.
This is the inside of the long compressor building seen above.
Injecting methane into the 4 000 m deep reservoir required this battery of 20 big multistage compressors working at more than 430 atmospheres (6000 psi). At that pressure, methane was liquid and washed off any hydrocarbon soluble lubricant film from the surface of the compressor cylinders. I had to find a synthetic lubricant that would protect the cylinders from wear without clogging the porous reservoir rock. After a few trials, we designed a made to order lubricant with the help of a good lab team in Paris and I was declared a hero.
Another trouble shooting job took me another 500 km south to a wildcat well at Nezla.
Here a view of a sand dune being slowly moved across the land by the wind.
On the way, we came across an Algerian camel mounted patrol in the middle of nowhere.
Here is the Nezla wildcat before it struck oil.
Below, a view of the derrick from the ground on the left and another one from the top on the right.
Here also, living quarters are kept at a distance from the derrick for obvious reasons.
That's me on the derrick floor.
I really enjoyed the broad range of diverse responsibilities from technical to business and human management that my work in Algeria gave me. And I loved the country and its people.
This picture was taken in the Casbah much later on a business trip for Soquip in 1977.
What a pity what corruption and religious fanaticism have done to these people!