Saudi Arabia Shuts Down Half Its Oil Output After Drone Strikes

(MEE) — Yemen’s Houthi group early on Saturday attacked two plants at the heart of Saudi Arabia’s oil industry, including the world’s biggest petroleum processing facility, in strikes reported to have impacted close to half the kingdom’s oil output.

The pre-dawn drone attack on the Saudi Aramco facilities sparked several fires, although the kingdom, the world’s largest oil exporter, later said these were brought under control.

Three sources close to the matter told the Reuters news agency that oil production and exports have been affected.

One source said five million barrels per day of crude production had been impacted – around 50 percent of Saudi Arabia’s output – but did not elaborate.

State television said exports were continuing, however Aramco has yet to comment since the assault, which the Houthis said involved 10 drones attacking the sites in Abqaiq and Khurais.

Authorities have not said whether oil production or exports were affected or if there were any casualties.

US Condemns Attacks

The Houthi’s military spokesman claimed responsibility for the attacks in the kingdom’s Eastern Province on the group’s Al Masirah TV station.

The broadcaster said the group pledged to widen the range of its attacks on Saudi Arabia, which is leading a coalition fighting them in Yemen.

The sites that came under attack are located over 1,000 km from the Yemeni capital Sanaa.

A Saudi interior ministry spokesman said Aramco, the state oil company, had brought fires at the two sites under control. The spokesman did not identify the source of the drones.

The US envoy to Saudi Arabia condemned the attacks as “unacceptable”.

“The US strongly condemns today’s drone attacks against oil facilities in Abqaiq and Khurais,” the US mission quoted Ambassador John Abizaid as saying.

“These attacks against critical infrastructure endanger civilians, are unacceptable, and sooner or later will result in innocent lives being lost.”

The US Embassy in Riyadh said it was unaware of any injuries to Americans from the attacks.

Many Western employees of Aramco live in Abqaiq. Located 60km southwest of Dhahran, it contains the world’s largest oil processing plant.

Khurais, 190km further southwest, contains the country’s second largest oilfield.

IPO Looming

Tensions are running high in the region after attacks in June and July on oil tankers in Gulf waters that Riyadh and Washington blamed on Iran. Tehran denies the accusations.

The Houthis have also launched attacks over the border, hitting Shaybah oilfield with drones last month and two oil pumping stations in May.

Both attacks caused fires but did not disrupt production.

Security forces foiled an al-Qaeda attack on Abqaiq in 2006.

Aramco is preparing to float shares as early as this year as part of efforts to diversify the economy of the world’s top oil exporter away from crude.

It has hired nine banks as joint global coordinators to lead the IPO and has been meeting bankers this week in Dubai as it speeds up the listing plans.

By MEE and agencies Republished with permission / Middle East Eye / Report a typo

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