Attacks on Saudi facilities threaten energy security

Article by Amanda Jasi

AIRBORNE attacks on Saudi Aramco energy infrastructure demonstrate a threat to Saudi Arabia’s production capacity and international energy security, officials said after the most recent assaults.

On 25 March, at 17:25 local time, Saudi Aramco’s petroleum product distribution station in North Jeddah was attacked, causing a fire to erupt in storage tanks at the facility. The fire was controlled, and no casualties were recorded.

According to news reports, Yemen’s Houthi rebels have claimed responsibility for this, and other attacks. Reuters reported that the Iran-aligned Houthis have escalated attacks on Saudi oil facilities in recent weeks.

A spokesperson from Saudi Arabia’s Ministry of Energy condemned the recent attacks and warned the international community to be aware of the dangers of “Iran’s continuous provision of ballistic missiles and advanced drones, which target the Kingdom’s oil, gas, and refining facilities”.

According to the Ministry, the “grave effects” on the upstream and downstream sector could impact the country’s production capacity and its ability to fulfil its obligations to international markets, “seriously threatening the security and stability of energy supplies to global markets”. In 2021, such impacts were exemplified when a drone attack claimed by the Houthi movement cut global crude oil production by 5%.

They added that Saudi Arabia would not be responsible for any shortage in supply to the international markets, while the attacks against its facilities continue. Saudi Arabia is one of the world’s largest oil producers.

After the recent attacks, Saudi Arabia called on all nations and organisations to unite against such acts of terrorism by groups perpetuating or supporting these attacks. Bloomberg reported that Saudi Arabia specifically called on the US to do more to counter attacks by the Iran-backed Houthis. Reuters reported that the Saudi-led coalition launched a military operation in Yemen the day after the reported attacks, saying it aimed to protect global energy sources and ensure supply chains.   

Bloomberg added that the escalation in attacks was “spooking traders”, with crude prices already above US$100/bbl.  

Fatih Birol, Executive Director of the International Energy Agency, said: “I strongly condemn the reported attack today on Saudi Arabia's energy infrastructure.

“This comes at a time when oil markets are extremely volatile, and the world is navigating a growing energy crisis.”

According to Reuters, Houthi military spokesperson Yahya Sarea said that on 25 March the group launched missiles at Aramco’s facilities in Jeddah and drones at the Rabigh and Ras Tanura refineries, and targeted “vital facilities” in Riyadh. Saudi Press Agency reported that Nayef Falah Mubarak Al-Hajraf, Secretary General of the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) for Arab Statesraised the high efficiency and constant vigilance of the Saudi air defence forces, which intercepted and destroyed nine drones. Other reports from the Saudi Press Agency highlight that drone and missile attacks were foiled, though did not specify a total figure.

Article by Amanda Jasi

Staff reporter, The Chemical Engineer

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