Wednesday, 20 November, 2019

Saudi Arabia oil and gas production reduced due to drone attacks

Mike Pompeo Mike Pompeo
Patty Aguilar | 17 September, 2019, 10:14

Saudi Arabia is racing to restore oil production after a brazen drone strike on a key Aramco facility slashed its output by half, or about 5% of world supply, an assault that the US has blamed on Iran.

Abqaiq, located about 60km south-west of Dhahran, is the site of Aramco's largest oil processing plant.

The attack reduced production by five million barrels a day - almost half the kingdom's output and 5% of global production - according to unnamed Saudi oil ministry sources quoted by the Reuters news agency last night.

Pompeo said there was no evidence the attack came from Yemen, where a Saudi-led coalition has been battling the Houthis for over four years in a conflict widely seen as a proxy war between rivals Sunni Muslim Saudi Arabia and Shi'ite Iran.

"Work is underway to restore production and a progress update will be provided in around 48 hours", said Amin Nasser, Aramco's president and chief executive officer.

He said Saturday's attack was one of the biggest operations the Houthi forces had undertaken inside Saudi Arabia and was carried out in "co-operation with the honourable people inside the kingdom".

The Saudi Arabia stock market dropped three percent at the start of trading on Sunday, the first session after drone attacks on two major oil facilities on Saturday.

Regional tensions have escalated since Washington quit an worldwide nuclear deal and extended sanctions on Iran to choke off its vital oil exports.

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A lengthy disruption is nearly certain to drive global oil prices well above the $60 a barrel that trading closed at on Friday. But Mr Pompeo alleged on Twitter that Iran was behind what he called an "unprecedented attack on the world's energy supply".

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There have been no details on the damage but AFP news agency quoted interior ministry spokesman Mansour al-Turki as saying there were no casualties.

In recent months, the Huthis have staged repeated cross-border missile and drone attacks targeting Saudi air bases and other facilities in what they say is retaliation for the Riyadh-led bombing campaign on rebel-held areas in Yemen.

The facility processes up to seven million barrels of sour crude oil into sweet crude a day, then later transports onto transhipment points on the Persian Gulf and the Red Sea.

The Trump administration is prepared to tap United States emergency oil reserves if necessary after drone attacks shut oil output in Saudi Arabia, the world's largest crude exporter, a Department of Energy spokeswoman said.

The financial channel CNBC cited several energy analysts as saying that oil prices could immediately spike by $5-$10 when markets reopen on Sunday night (US time), while other commentators predicted $100 (€90) a barrel oil. On Friday, Brent crude traded at $60.22 a barrel. According to a source in Saudi Aramco, the company can probably quickly increase the production of oil again. "Iran is backing the Houthis and has been a bad actor, but it's just not as simple as Houthis=Iran".

Riyadh has accused Iran and its proxies of being behind previous attacks on oil pumping stations and the Shaybah oilfield, charges Tehran denies.

The United States and Saudi Arabia have blamed Tehran for multiple attacks on tankers in the Gulf, and in June, Trump called off air strikes against Iran at the last minute after it downed a USA drone.

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