Saudi Oil Industry Attacked
On 14 September, two key Saudi oil facilities, the Abqaiq refinery and Khurais oil field, were attacked by dozens of cruise missiles and drones. There were no causalities and the fires that broke out were brought under control within hours, however the impact on Saudi oil industry was severe: the attack took out nearly half of Saudi oil production, which equals 5% of the global daily output. As a result, there was a temporary spike of crude oil price on the global markets, but after Saudi officials assured that the kingdom’s oil output will be back on pre-attack levels by the end of September, the prices began to drop.
Shortly after the attack, the Houthi rebels of Yemen claimed responsibility for the attack, claiming that it is a retaliation for Saudi blockade and intervention in Yemen, which begun back in 2015 and resulted in famine and thousands of civilian deaths. However, the United States accused Iran (which supports the Houthis) of being responsible for the attack. According to the U.S. officials, the attack came either from southern Iran or southern Iraq, where Iran-linked Popular Mobilization Units, a coalition of Shia militias, operate. Both Iran and Iraq have rejected these claims. This is another rise of tension in the Gulf this year, after the seizures of several tankers by Iran attacks on tankers and downing of an American spy drone. In response to the attack, U.S. President Donald Trump announced more sanctions against Iran. The Americans also declared that they are ready to defend their interests and allies in the region. But even that may not be enough to convince oil importers that the Saudis are reliable source: China and Japan , Saudi Arabia’s biggest customers announced that they are considering diversifying their crude oil imports. The threat of decreased oil revenues may push Riyadh to even more assertive behaviour in the region.
While the Houthis used drones to attack Saudi pipeline in the past and in Ukraine, a single drone blew up huge ammunition depot back in 2017, it is the 14 September attack that brought the world’s attention to the vulnerability of energy infrastructure to attacks by these relatively simple and cheap means. It is, therefore, necessary for the countries to consider implementing necessary countermeasures.
STRATPOL Memos is a project which on a bi-weekly basis provides a short overview of the most important selected moments of Euro-Atlantic security and related areas. Our goal is to provide brief and informative comments with short analysis putting news into a broader context.
Responsible editor Matúš Jevčák.
Author: Martin Dudáš
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