Attacks on Saudi Arabia, UAE energy facilities likely coordinated, analysts say

The attack on two pumping stations operated by Saudi Aramco comes two days after oil vessels, including two Saudi tankers, were victims of ‘sabotage’ off the UAE port of Fujairah. (Photo/Supplied)
Updated 15 May 2019
0

Attacks on Saudi Arabia, UAE energy facilities likely coordinated, analysts say

  • The attack comes two days after four oil vessels, including two Saudi tankers, were victims of “sabotage” off the UAE port of Fujairah

DUBAI/RIYADH/JEDDAH: Energy experts said twin attacks on Gulf energy facilities were likely coordinated. Tuesday’s drone strikes on Saudi oil facilities were described by Khalid Al-Falih, the energy minister, as “an act of terrorism and sabotage.”
The early-morning attack, the second this week in the Gulf, was carried out on two pumping stations operated by Saudi Aramco. The Energy Ministry said that one pumping station had been shut down because of fire while evaluation was underway to assess its condition, but said that “Saudi oil production has not been interrupted.”
There was a jump in the price of oil when the attack — which had been announced without detail on a television channel in Yemen sympathetic to Houthis, but later denied by the militia group — was confirmed by the Kingdom. Brent crude rose by about 1.65 percent to stand at around $71.39 at 6:30 p.m. GMT.
Al-Falih said the Kingdom “condemns this cowardly attack, emphasizing that this act of terrorism and sabotage in addition to recent acts in the Arabian Gulf do not only target the Kingdom but also the security of world oil supplies and the global economy.
“These attacks prove again that it is important for us to face terrorist entities, including the Houthi militias in Yemen that are backed by Iran,” he added.
The attack comes two days after four oil vessels, including two Saudi tankers, were victims of “sabotage” off the UAE port of Fujairah. No organization has yet claimed responsibility for that attack, but it has heightened fears of a wider confrontation with Iran in the Arabian Gulf.
A statement from the Saudi Energy Ministry said: “Between 6:00 a.m. and 6:30 a.m., two pump stations on the East-West pipeline were attacked by armed drones which caused a fire and minor damage to Pump Station No. 8. The fire has since been contained. The pipeline transports Saudi oil from the Eastern Province to Yanbu port.”
Maps show a string of Saudi Aramco pumping stations south of Buraydah on the route from the capital to Yanbu.


Despite the damage being contained and no interruption to oil supplies, energy experts highlighted the potential seriousness of the attacks.
The US-based energy consultant Ellen Wald, author of “Saudi Inc.,” told Arab News: “The East-West Pipeline transports about 5 million barrels of oil per day from fields in eastern Saudi Arabia to the Red Sea port of Yanbu. It is a very important alternative route for oil exports that allows Aramco to bypass the Strait of Hormuz … which Iran has threatened to close. 
“In fact, Aramco plans to expand the pipeline’s capacity in the coming years. The drone attack reveals the 1,200 km pipeline’s vulnerability … oil prices are understandably climbing as a result,” she added. 
David Hodson, managing director of Dubai-based energy consultancy BluePearl Management, said: “The terrorist attacks in the UAE and Saudi Arabia in the last two days on the oil and gas industry are very disturbing and alarming. It is difficult to believe they are not related and coordinated given the timing of these events and their concentration on the regional oil sector. 
“It is an ominous security concern to see how to adequately protect the extensive and diversely located oil and gas infrastructure whether in the Kingdom or elsewhere in the region,” he added.
Robin Mills, chief executive of Qamar Energy, a Dubai consultancy, said that the pipeline marked an “odd” target.
“Pipelines are quite easy to repair. But this and the Fujairah incident threaten … Saudi export routes,” he said. “So far it is just a threat rather than a danger.” 
Independent energy expert Anas AlHajji tweeted: “The attack on pumping stations … is significant. It reflects the realization that these pipelines replace the passage through the Strait of Hormuz. In other words, these pipelines reduce Iran’s ability to influence oil flow in the Strait. 
“The attacks on ships on Sunday and the attack on pumping stations today indicate one thing: The planners chose the weakest spots. Therefore, it cannot be the work of a few angry people,” he added.
Before the attack in Saudi Arabia was confirmed, Al Masirah, a Yemen TV channel alegedly run by the Iran-aligned Houthis, said the militia had launched drone attacks on Saudi installations, without identifying the targets or the time of the attacks. Bizarrely, that claim was later retracted, with the Houthis saying the attack was launched from within Saudi Arabia, according to Al Arabiya television. 
Analysts have been increasing their forecasts for oil prices in light of the increased regional tension, despite threats to global economic growth due to the US-China trade row.  
Hodson said: “These attacks … are likely to push oil prices in a slightly higher direction but probably not that much unless additional and larger attacks take place.”


Peace is our priority but the world must take a stand against Iran, says Saudi cabinet

Updated 22 May 2019
0

Peace is our priority but the world must take a stand against Iran, says Saudi cabinet

  • Saudi cabinet says the international community must take firm action against the regime in Tehran
  • Saudi’s king invites GCC leaders to hold Gulf and Arab summits in Makkah on May 30

JEDDAH: The Saudi cabinet on Tuesday said that while the Kingdom believes all people in the region have a right to live in peace, including the Iranians, the international community must take firm action against the regime in Tehran to prevent it from spreading destruction and chaos.

After a meeting of the Council of Ministers at Assalam Palace, presided over by King Salman, Turki Al-Shabanah, the minister of media, told the Saudi Press Agency that the cabinet reviewed reports on regional and global development, and the king invited GCC leaders to hold Gulf and Arab summits in Makkah on May 30. The invitation reflects the Kingdom’s desire to work with other nations to boost security and stability in the region, the minister said, especially in light of the Iran’s continuing aggressive actions. The regime’s recent activities threaten regional and international peace and security, and the supply and stability of international oil markets, he added.

Al-Shabanah reiterated the Kingdom’s commitment to peace and said it will make every effort to prevent war. The nation’s hand is always extended, he added, in the belief that everyone in the region, including the Iranians, has the right to live in a secure and stable environment.

However, the cabinet called on the international community to shoulder its responsibilities by taking a firm stance against the actions of the regime in Tehran, to prevent its disruptive and destructive activities throughout the world. It also called on Iran to halt the reckless and irresponsible behavior of its agents, to save the region from the dangers they pose and potential repercussions.

The cabinet also expressed the Kingdom’s hopes and expectations that the 14th Ordinary Session of the Islamic Summit Conference, will encourage unity of response to ongoing events in the Islamic world. The summit, chaired by King Salman, will be held in Makkah on May 31 under the title “Makkah Summit: Hand in Hand toward the Future.”

Ministers heard that the Kingdom has sent $250 million to the Central Bank of Sudan as part of a previously announced package of assistance in partnership with the United Arab Emirates. This latest demonstration of support from the Kingdom to the Sudanese people aims to help stabilize the country’s economy, and strengthen the Sudanese pound in particular, to help improve the lives of the nation’s people.

The cabinet also welcomed the decision of the 14th meeting of the Joint Ministerial Committee to monitor an oil production reduction agreement concluded in Jeddah, which was headed by the Kingdom and Russia, and affirmed its commitment to balancing the oil market and stabilizing it on a sustainable basis.

Turning to local affairs, the Council of Ministers confirmed the generous support of SR 100 million ($26.7 million) from the king, and SR 30 million from Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman to the Jood Housing platform. Launched a day earlier, and supervised by the National Housing Development Association, it aims to accelerate the development process through the introduction of a new model of social solidarity, in which government, charities and commercial entities work together in accordance with regulations designed to provide support for those in need.

The council also discussed the results of the 26th meeting of the region’s governors, and praised the king for his directives designed to preserve security and help people throughout the Kingdom.