Ten drones controlled by the Yemeni Houthi forces hit two large Saudi oil rigs and caused several major fires.
The Abkaik oil refinery is located 60 km southwest of the Aramco * headquarters in Dahran **. This collection and processing point processes oil from the world’s largest mainland oil field, the super giant Gavar, and exports it to the terminals of Ras Tannur, the world’s largest offshore oil complex, and Huaimah. Oil is also pumped from here west through the kingdom to the export terminals of the Red Sea.
The Abkaik oil and gas refinery is the largest in the world. It is located in the center of the oil and gas infrastructure of Saudi Arabia.
Abkaik processes 6.8 million barrels of crude oil per day. More than two thirds of all oil and gas production in Saudi Arabia passes through it. It is not yet clear which part of the widely spread object was destroyed.
The second goal was an oil treatment plant near Hurais, 190 km further southwest. It is located within the country’s second largest oil field. Both installations are located at a distance of more than 1000 km from Yemen.
Middle East region is on the verge of a new large-scale conflict.
Saudi Arabia does not have air defense systems that would protect its oil facilities from attacks from the south.
Numerous videos depict Saudi Arabian air defense systems around oil facilities in Abkaik, which were hit early Saturday. The drones were within the range of the PAC-2 ***, but outside the range of the Hawk ****. It is possible that low-flying or small-sized drones and composite materials (of which they were made) helped to avoid detection.
PAC-2 are older US air defense systems that small drones or cruise missiles cannot “see”.
Satellite images show significant smoke from Abkaik.
The smoke comes from four additional oil depots, but this may be due to emergency oil burning, which is now necessary, because the downstream processing facilities are blocked or destroyed.
Saudi Arabia stated that fires are under control. The video confirms that they are continuing.
In one of the videos shot at night on the ground near the object, you can hear the high sound of the UAV engine, and then an explosion. In other videos, automatic shots are heard. Probably, these were attempts by the guards to shoot down drones.
But drones may not have been the only cause of the incident. Kuwaiti fishermen recorded the sound of a cruise missile or some sort of jet manned or unmanned airliner flying from Iraq last night. The wreckage found on the ground in Saudi Arabia seems to refer to the Soviet-era X-55 ***** cruise missile or to Soumar, an Iranian copy of this project. The Huti showed cruise missiles, probably from Iran, with a similar design. Following an attack on Saudi oil rigs in August, allegations were made that at least some of the attacks were from Iraq. Iran has been charged with participating in this attack. Although this sounds unlikely, it is not unthinkable.
This August attack was a decisive step against Saudi Arabia’s war with Yemen. As we wrote at the time: “Saudi Arabia finally lost the war with Yemen. It has no protection from the new weapons acquired by the Hussites in Yemen. This weapon threatens the economic life of the Saudis. ”
Saudi Arabia has nothing to stop the massive attacks with the help of these drones. To protect Saudi oil installations, hundreds of Russian-made Pantsir-C1 and Buk air defense systems will be required. And still there will be no guarantee that they cannot be overcome.
A representative of the armed forces of Houthi claimed responsibility for the attack: “This operation is one of the largest conducted by our forces in the depths of Saudi Arabia, and was carried out after a thorough reconnaissance operation, preliminary monitoring and cooperation of noble and free people in the Kingdom.”
Claiming cooperation with people in Saudi Arabia will make Saudi rulers behave even more paranoid than usual. It may well be that the drones were launched from within Saudi Arabia, and that their launch point was much closer to the target than publicly anticipated.
The same representative continued: “We promise the Saudi regime that our future operations will expand and become more painful than ever, as long as it continues its aggression and siege. We confirm that our target bank is expanding day by day and that the Saudi regime has no other solution but to stop the aggression and siege of our country. ”
The war with Yemen, launched by Saudi prince Mohammad bin Salman in 2015, cost Saudi Arabia several billion dollars a month. The Saudi budget deficit has increased again this year and is expected to reach 7% of GDP. A country needs fresh money or much higher oil prices.
Saudi Arabia recently renewed plans to sell a share of its state-owned oil conglomerate Aramco. Earlier this month, the long-standing Saudi Minister of Energy, Khalid al-Falih, was first demoted, then removed from his post and replaced by Abdulaziz bin Salman, half-brother of the clown prince: “The removal of Khalid al-Falih put an end to the resistance of the nationalists to the sale of Aramco and wealth of the country. But who will buy the share of some company when the safety of its main installations is not ensured, and they are subjected to serious attacks? ”
Saudi prince will have to make peace with Yemen before he can sell Aramco shares at an affordable price. He will have to pay many billions in the form of reparations to Yemen and his people before the Huti want to make peace.
The first attempts by the Saudis to sue in the interests of peace were made two weeks ago. It seems they asked the Trump administration to work out an agreement with the Houthi: “The Trump administration is preparing to begin negotiations with Iran-backed Houthi rebels in an attempt to end the four-year civil war in Yemen, The Wall Street Journal reported on Wednesday.
According to reports, these efforts are aimed at convincing Saudi Arabia to engage in secret negotiations with the rebels in Oman to help achieve a ceasefire in the conflict, which has become the front line in the regional war against Riyadh and Tehran.”
Since then, nothing has been heard of this initiative. To end the war, the Saudis need to move quickly. If this does not happen in the near future, then we can expect further escalations and new attacks, similar to those that have already occurred.
About the Author: Billmon is the pseudonym of an American blogger who posts his comments on a wide range of political and economic issues on his blog “Moon of Alabama.
* Saudi Aramco, full name Saudi Arabian Oil Company, is the national oil company of Saudi Arabia. The largest oil company in the world in terms of oil production and oil reserves. According to the Financial Times 2006, it is the largest company in the world in terms of business value.
** Dahran or Ez-Zahran is a city in eastern Saudi Arabia in the province of Al-Sharqiya, not far from the Persian Gulf. About 11,300 people live in Dahran, of which 6,200 are Americans.
*** SAM “Patriot” (military index – MIM-104).
**** Raytheon MIM-23 Hawk is an American medium-range anti-aircraft missile.
***** X-55 is a Soviet / Russian strategic aviation cruise missile developed in the Dubna MKD Raduga under the leadership of I. S. Seleznev in the late 1970s and early 1980s for arming strategic bombers.