Iran-Backed Houthi Rebels Claim Strike
(Updated) Official Saudi sources have confirmed that two major oil refineries in the kingdom were hit by drone attacks early Saturday 14th September.
This resulted in multiple fires they say have now been brought under control.
Both operated by state-owned Aramco, by far the largest producer of oil in Saudi Arabia, the refineries near Buqayq and the Abqaiq plant were hit at 04:00 local time (20:00 EST).
Local video footage showed the fires at one of the refineries;
Aramco’s Abqaiq refinery is the largest oil refinery in the world, producing up to 7 million barrels of oil a day.
The Saudi Interior Ministry has said an investigation is underway.
There were unconfirmed reports of gunfire immediately prior to the attack and it is believed there have been multiple casualties, though no figures have been released as yet.
All military in Saudi Arabia was placed on the highest alert following the attack and Saudi RAF jets were seen in the air immediately afterward.
HOUTHI’S ISSUE STATEMENT
Iranian-backed Houthi rebels based in Yemen have carried out similar attacks in the past, but this is the biggest attack on Saudi Arabia’s oil infrastructure in more than a decade.
The Houthi military spokesman, Yahya Sarea, told al-Masirah TV, which is owned by the Houthi movement and is based in Beirut, that further attacks could be expected in the future.
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 honorable people inside the kingdom”.
A NASA near real-time image was published showing the 50-mile long smoke plume over the Abqaiq plant;
Bob McNally, head of Rapid Energy Group in Washington commented, “For the oil market if not the global economy, Abqaiq is the single most valuable piece of real estate on planet earth,”
Aramco, which pumped about 9.8 million barrels a day in August, will be able to keep customers supplied for several weeks by drawing on a global storage network. The Saudis hold millions of barrels in tanks in the kingdom itself, plus in three strategic locations around the world: Rotterdam in the Netherlands, Okinawa in Japan, and Sidi Kerir on the Mediterranean coast of Egypt.
“Abqaiq is the heart of the system and they just had a heart attack,” said Roger Diwan, a veteran OPEC watcher at consultant IHS Markit. “We just don’t know the severity.”
There has been no immediate impact on global oil prices as a result of the attack and global markets were closed for the weekend in any case. The benchmark Brent Crude had been trading at just above $60 a barrel on Friday.