Saudi Arabia: Yemeni Shia rebels have claimed an attack on a major Saudi oil pipeline

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Saudi Arabia interrupted operations on a major oil pipeline in the kingdom on Tuesday after a drone attack on two pumping stations near the capital Riyadh, Energy Minister Khalid al-Falih announced.
In a statement relayed by the Saudi Arabian official agency Spa, Mr. Falih said that two pumping stations had been targeted by “armed drones”, causing a “fire” and “minor damage” to one station before the disaster was contained. The attack took place between 06:00 and 06:30 local (03:00 and 03:30 GMT), he said. Aramco “took precautionary measures and temporarily suspended operations on the East-West oil pipeline that links the oil-rich Saudi province of Orient and the Red Sea port of Yanbu,” he said.
This 1,200-kilometre pipeline has a capacity of at least five million barrels per day.
Mr. Falih condemned Tuesday’s attack, stressing that “the latest acts of terrorism and sabotage in the Gulf (…) target not only the (Saudi) Kingdom, but also the security of global oil supplies and the global economy”.
“These attacks prove once again how important it is for us to deal with terrorist entities, including Houthi militiamen in Yemen who are supported by Iran,” he said. The Saudi Minister concluded his statement by stating that “supplies and exports of crude oil and petroleum products (Saudi) are functioning normally without interruption”.
The Houthis claim responsibility for the attack
Earlier, the rebel-controlled television station al-Massirah in neighbouring Yemen reported a “major military operation” against Saudi targets with “the use of seven drones” against Saudi “vital installations”.
“This major military operation is a response to the continuing aggression and blockade of our people and we are ready to strike even harder,” said the soldier quoted by al-Massira on Twitter.
Saudi Arabia has been militarily involved in the Yemen conflict since 2015 to help the government deal with the Houthi rebels, politically supported by Iran.
On Sunday, mysterious “acts of sabotage” were committed on four ships in the Gulf, including two Saudi tankers, according to the authorities of the United Arab Emirates, an ally of Riyadh.
It is not known whether the Houthis, who are at war in Yemen against the Sunni military coalition led by Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates, wanted to claim responsibility for Sunday’s attack, which took place near the emirate of Fujairah.
The emirate is located just at the entrance to the Strait of Hormuz. The UAE authorities did not specify the nature of the attack or who was behind it.
The Houthis have repeatedly launched drone and missile attacks against Saudi Arabia and have also claimed responsibility for drone attacks on the United Arab Emirates.
The Emirati-Saudi Coalition
The Western-supported Emirates-Saudi coalition began bombing Yemen by air in March 2015 in an attempt to restore the internationally recognized government, overthrown by the Houthis the previous year and forced to leave the capital Sana’a.
The war in Yemen is considered a proxy war between the two powers in the region, Sunni Saudi Arabia and Shia Iran. The Houthis refuse to be considered as pawns advanced by Iran. They say that their revolution is about fighting corruption.
The Emirates and Saudi Arabia are also close allies of the United States, which has consistently toughened its stance against Tehran, whether on the nuclear issue or its “destabilizing actions” in the Middle East.
Oil prices up sharply after the announcement of the attack by Shia Yemeni rebels
World oil prices on Tuesday afternoon rose by 1 to 1.4% in the context of news of the drone attack on Saudi Arabia’s main pipeline, according to stock exchanges.
At 14:29 Moscow time, the cost of futures contracts for the month of July for North Sea Brent crude oil blend increased by 1.37% to $71.17 per barrel, while the cost of futures contracts for the month of June increased by 1.03% to $61.67. In the morning, the increase in the cost of both types of oil was 0.3 to 0.4%.
Saudi Arabia hits Huthi positions in Yemen in retaliation
The Saudi Air Force has launched 17 strikes against a Huthi insurgent base near the city of Abbas in northwestern Yemen.
The strikes were a response to an attack on oil pipeline pumping stations in Saudi Arabia by Huthis using drones.
Details on the attacked targets
Saudi Arabia has announced a drone attack on Aramco’s two pumping stations 8 and 9.
These pumping stations 8 and 9 support the flow of oil and gas through pipelines from the eastern region to Yanbu on the Red Sea, via Dawadmi and Afif near Riyadh,.
These two major pipelines, linking oil production facilities in the eastern part of the kingdom to the port of Yanbu, were installed in 1982.
One of the pipelines transports liquid natural gas from gas processing facilities located in the Shadqam area, 1,871 kilometres from Yanbu.
The other pipeline, which extends over 1,200 kilometres, transfers crude oil from the Abqaiq area.
The pipeline, known as the East-West pipeline, is monitored and controlled by computer.
The 122 cm diameter crude oil pipeline was originally capable of transporting 1.85 million barrels of crude oil per day to Yanbu for refining and export.
Saudi Aramco later increased its capacity to 3.2 million barrels per day by expanding the parallel tube diameter by 142 cm (56 inches).
The expansion of the pumping station in late 1992 increased the pipeline’s capacity to 4.5 million barrels per day.
The Yanbu oil facilities include 11 floating roof storage tanks (1 million barrels each), plus a 1.5 million barrel per day tank, the largest in the Kingdom, built in 1992 to increase daily capacity.
The system is connected to four filling lines, each 142 cm in diameter, connecting storage tanks to tanker filling platforms.
The system is capable of delivering 130,000 barrels of crude oil per hour per shift.