Saudi oil production surges back to 75 percent of pre-attack level

Saudi King Salman and Bahrain’s King Hamad bin Isa Al-Khalifa reviewed latest regional developments during their talks in Jeddah on Monday. (SPA)
Updated 24 September 2019

Saudi oil production surges back to 75 percent of pre-attack level

  • We can deal with effects of ‘cowardly sabotage,’ king says of drone and missile attacks
  • Two Aramco plants were hit in drone and missile attacks on Sept. 14 that caused fires and significant damage, halving the country’s oil output

JEDDAH: Saudi Arabia has restored more than 75 percent of the production lost after attacks on two oil processing plants and will return to full capacity next week.

The Khurais facility is now producing more than 1.3 million barrels per day and the Abqaiq plant about 3 million, industry sources said. 

Both Aramco plants were hit in drone and missile attacks on Sept. 14 that caused fires and significant damage, halving the country’s oil output. The Kingdom’s ability to quickly restore production demonstrated an important degree of resilience to potentially damaging shocks, the ratings agency Moody’s said.

King Salman said on Monday that Saudi Arabia was able to deal with the effects of what he described as “this cowardly sabotage, that targeted the Kingdom and the stability of global energy supplies.”

He spoke after talks in Jeddah with King Hamad of Bahrain, who denounced the “serious escalation targeting the security and stability of the region.”

Meanwhile, the diplomatic focus on the fallout from the missile strikes moved to New York, where world leaders are gathering for the UN General Assembly. Saudi Arabia and the US have blamed Iran for the attacks, and they were joined on Monday by Britain.

“The UK is attributing responsibility with a very high degree of probability to Iran for the Aramco attacks. We think it very likely indeed that Iran was responsible,” British Prime Minister Boris Johnson said on his way to the US.

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“We will be working with our American friends and our European friends to construct a response that tries to deescalate tensions in the Gulf region,” he said.

However, the UK risks opening a diplomatic rift with other European countries trying to salvage the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA), the 2015 deal to curb Iran’s nuclear program in return for an easing of economic sanctions. Their efforts have so far failed, with the US withdrawing from the deal and reimposing sanctions.

French President Emmanuel Macron has refused to blame Iran for the Aramco attacks. “One must be very careful in attributing responsibility,” he said on his way to New York.

Macron, Johnson and German Chancellor Angela Merkel held talks on Monday to coordinate their Iran strategy before meetings with US President Donald Trump and Iranian President Hassan Rouhani.

Gulf states, the US, the Europeans and others needed to engage in “collective diplomacy” to defuse tensions, a senior GCC official said.

“The conversation should no longer be about the JCPOA, but Iran’s missile program and its regional misbehavior, which are as important if not more important — they have the potential to hold the region to ransom,” he said.


Make or break days for global oil ahead of OPEC crunch meeting

Updated 08 April 2020

Make or break days for global oil ahead of OPEC crunch meeting

  • OPEC, led by Saudi Arabia, were on Thursday scheduled to take part in virtual discussions with non-OPEC members, led by Russia, about a possible deal to revive the OPEC+ alliance
  • On Friday, energy ministers from the G20 nations, under the presidency of Saudi Arabia, will convene in another digital forum that will bring in the third part of the global oil equation – the US

DUBAI: The global energy world, in the midst of crisis as demand slumps to unprecedented levels due to the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) pandemic, faces two days that could make – or break – the oil industry for months to come.
Leading producers from the Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC), led by Saudi Arabia, were on Thursday scheduled to take part in virtual discussions with non-OPEC members, led by Russia, about a possible deal to revive the OPEC+ alliance that fell apart in Vienna at the beginning of last month.
Then, on Friday, energy ministers from the G20 nations, under the presidency of Saudi Arabia, will convene in another digital forum that will bring in the third important part of the global oil equation – the US, currently the biggest oil producer in the world.
If no deal is reached from the two days of oil summits, the immediate prospect looms of a further fall in crude prices and, with global storage facilities already filling rapidly, the possibility of major exporters “shutting in” oil fields, jeopardizing future production.
Energy experts say the purpose of the meetings is two-fold: To reach agreement on how to limit the vast quantities of oil that are still being produced even as demand collapses; and to present some kind of united front in geopolitical terms in the face of the biggest economic recession since the 1930s.
The most visible immediate sign of any success from the meetings will be an increase in the price of crude oil on global markets. Brent crude, the Middle East benchmark, has lost nearly half its value in the past month.
The first aim – to try to balance oil supply and demand – is the more difficult. Global demand has fallen by at least 20 per cent from the usual daily consumption of around 100 million barrels, oil economists have calculated.
But, following the collapse of the OPEC+ deal that was putting a lid on supply, all producers have been pumping more crude. Saudi Arabia is producing more than 12 million barrels per day (bpd), a bigger volume than at any time in its history. All OPEC members, as well as Russia, have said they will increase output.
In this stand-off, US President Donald Trump intervened last week to say that he had spoken to Saudi and Russian leaders and that he “expected” a cut of 10 million, possibly even 15 million, bpd.
That looks like wishful thinking. For one thing, it would not rebalance markets. Anas Al-Hajji, managing partner of US-based Energy Outlook Advisers, said: “The amount of the cut is relatively small given the major drop in demand.”
There are also some difficult relationships to smooth over in the OPEC+ alliance. Saudi Arabia and Russia exchanged angry statements last weekend, each accusing the other of starting the oil price war. Iran, with big reserves but hampered by US sanctions from exporting in large quantities, said that it might not take part in the conference.
The choreography of the two meetings also presents hurdles. The US will not be present at the OPEC+ meeting, but American Secretary of Energy Dan Brouillette said he would take part in the G20 event.
Because it is a free-market industry, America cannot order its oil producers to reduce output, but most analysts are agreed any attempt to rebalance global supply would be impossible without a US contribution.
By going first, Saudi Arabia and Russia are “playing blind” without knowing what the Americans are thinking. Neither would want to agree big price-restoring cuts only for US producers – under big financial pressure at current levels – to swoop back into the market.
This week there have been some signs that the Americans are considering their own versions of cutbacks. The biggest US company, Exxon Mobil, said it would reduce capital expenditure on future projects by 30 percent; the US Energy Information Administration said oil production would fall by nearly 1 million bpd this year, in response to falling demand and financial pressures.
But even if the Saudis and Russians cut substantially alongside other big OPEC producers such as the UAE, and the Americans enter a long-term pattern of falling demand, it is still hard to see how cuts could reach the 10 million barrels Trump “expects,” let alone 15 million.
J. P. Morgan, the big US investment bank, said that it expects OPEC+ to come up with combined cuts of about 4.3 million barrels, most of that coming from Saudi Arabia, Russia and the UAE. “If it’s 4.3 million it only puts off the day when global storage gets filled completely,” said Robin Mills, CEO of Qamar Energy consultancy.
Storage facilities are nearly at the brim. Malek Azizeh, director of the premium facilities at the Fujairah Oil Terminal in the UAE, joked that he was going to hang a sign on the terminal gates: “Thanks, but no tanks.”