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14 September 2019 - Drones Attack Saudi Oil

The Arab Coalition said 16 September 2019 that investigations indicated that the weapons used in the attacks on Saudi Aramco oil facilities are Iranian. The coalitions spokesperson Turki al-Maliki said that the coalition had the ability to confront attacks, and defend vital oil facilities. The investigation is continuing and all indications are that weapons used in both attacks came from Iran, al-Maliki told reporters in Riyadh, adding they were now probing from where they were fired. The scope and precision of drone attacks on Saudi Arabian oil facilities show they were launched from a west-northwest direction rather than from Yemen to the south, where Houthi rebels claimed responsibility, added senior US administration officials. US officials pointed to satellite imagery showing 19 points of impact on the oil facilities. The US assessment found that 15 structures at Abqaiq were damaged on the west-northwest-facing sides not the southern facades, as would be expected if the attack had come from Yemen.

Iran launched nearly a dozen cruise missiles and over 20 drones from its territory in the attacks that targeted two Saudi Aramco oil facilities in Abqaiq and Hijrat Khurais, a senior Trump administration official told ABC News on 15 September 2019. The official said that US President Donald Trump is aware that Iran is responsible, but added that he was waiting on Saudi Arabia to announce it. Trump said that the US was locked and loaded, but is waiting for verification and for a Saudi assessment of responsibility before deciding how to proceed. US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo also blamed Iran for the attacks, adding that Tehran has launched an unprecedented attack on the worlds energy supply.

Iraq said it had been told by the US that Washington did not suspect the weekend attack on Saudi Arabia had been launched from Iraqi territory. Pompeo had told Iraq's Prime Minister Adel Abdul Mahdi by phone "the information they have confirms the Iraqi government's statement that its territory was not used to carry out this attack," the Iraqi government said.

Saudi Arabias Ministry of Interior said on Saturday 14 September 2019 that drone attacks caused fires at two Saudi Aramco facilities, adding that the blazes are under control. One of the facilities is located in Abqaiq, near Dammam in the Kingdom's Eastern Province. The other facility is located in the Hijrat Khurais oilfield. At 4 am on Saturday morning, Aramcos industrial security teams fought two fires in two of the companys facilities in Abqaiq and Khurais after they were targeted by drones the two fires were controlled and contained, and the related authorities have begun investigating, the ministry said in a statement.

But NASA satellite imagery indicated that a total of at least five [not two, but at least five] facilities were attacked [running from North to South]: Abqaiq GOSP 5 / WWSP 5 [2553'N 4939'E], Shedgum Gas Plant [2538'N 4922'E], Uthmaniyah [2510'N 4918'E], Hawiyah Gas Plant [2447'N 4920'E], and Haradh Gas Plant [2402'"N 4911'E]. The attack on Abqaig produced by far the most prominent plume of smoke. But the Abqaig fire had evidently been extinguished the following day, while the fires at the other four facilities were still burning.

Digital GlobeSome sources claimed that the imagery was inconsistent with an attack launched from Houthi-controlled territory, which is far to the south-west of the Abqaig complex. Impact penetration holes on storage tanks might provide some indication of the source of the attack. Holes on the south sides of the tanks might be from the Houthis in the south, holes on the north sides of the tanks might be from Iranian aligned militias to the north in Iraq, and holes on the east sides of the tanks might come from missile fired from Iran, to the east. Of course, the holes are on the west sides of the tanks, evidence which implicates none of these culprits. Cruise missiles and drones can alter course in flight, and the direction of the final dive to the target might be quite different from the path of travel from the launch site.

The Khurais oil field, located 250km south-west of Dhahran, Saudi Arabia, is the second biggest oil field in Saudi Arabia, after the Ghawar oil field. The onshore oil fields production capacity was increased by 300,000 barrels per day (bpd) to 1.5 million barrels per day (Mbpd), as part of the $3bn Khurais Arabian Light Crude Increment Program, which was completed in late-2018. Owned and operated by Saudi Aramco, the Khurais oil field has been in production since 2009. The Khurais field, with an area of 2,890 km, is about 127 km long, located about 250 km southwest of Dhahran and 150 km east-northeast of Riyadh. Spread over 2,890km2, the Khurais oil project comprises three main fields, namely the Khurais field that covers an area of 1,200km and the Abu Jifan and Mazalij fields located to the south-west and south-east of Khurais, respectively.

Aramco has an airport at Khurais, but there are no other kindred facilities near this location evident in Google Earth. The Khurais project as a whole covers three oilfields: Khurais, Abu Jifan and Mazalij. The Khurais field, with an area of 2,890km and 127km long, located about 250km south-west of Dhahran and 300km north-east of Riyadh, is the biggest in the project. Abu Jifan covers 520km south-west of Khurais and Mazalij covers 1,630km south-east of Abu Jifan.

The gas input into the petrochemical industry in Saudi Arabia involves mainly methane and ethane as fuels and feedstocks. These gases are produced from the separation of natural gas into its components. Throughout this region there are numerous gas oil separation plants (GOSPs), which provide the initial separation of water and gas from the oil prior to shipment to facilities such as Abqaiq for further processing. At the time of commissioning in 2009, the project included four gas/oil separation units, process utilities, seawater pipelines, and a seawater treatment facility. There are four existing gas / oil separation plants (GOSPs) in operation in the Khurais field and one GOSP in each of the two other fields.

A Gas and Oil Separation Plant (GOSP) is a very important first step in any oil production facility. Major oil fields normally consist of tens of such GOSPs. These GOSPs are big electricity consumers due to the work of oil and water pumps; water injection pumps and associated gas compressors. Therefore they are also big GHG emission producers. The allocation of the oil and associated gas output of hundreds of oil wells to these GOSPs is not a very straight forward task since these GOSPs have oil and gas handling systems and pumps& compressors with different capacities and energy consumption efficiencies. The majority of the natural gas produced in Saudi Arabia is as an associated gas. But the associated-gas production is heavily tied to crude-oil production.

Crude oil typically contains varying quantities of gas, water and solids based on various well known factors. Water injection processes, in which water is injected into the reservoir to increase pressure and stimulate production, particularly in mature oil fields, increases the water cut, or percentage of water in the produced crude oil. Gas oil separation plants (GOSPs) are well known and are used to separate gas, water and oil in order to produce dry crude oil as the end product. Higher water cuts and tight emulsions of wet oil from reservoirs increase the difficulty of, and requisite time for the separation in the GOSP. As the water cut increases, the retention time within the separation equipment is increased to cope with the excess water, and, as a result, the rate of oil production is reduced and the GOSP becomes a bottleneck in the oil production.

According to the simplest, most frequently encountered method for the separation of gas and oil mixtures in a gas and oil separation plant (GOSP), two phase production from the wellhead is flashed, usually in a series of separator vessels which operate at progressively reduced pressures. The number and operating pressures of the vessels are optimised for maximum crude oil production from the last stage separator. This stage is always operated close to atmospheric pressure to produce a low vapour pressure crude oil which is suitable for storage and shipment, e.g. by road or sea tanker. Associated gases evolved during separation are used as fuel at the production unit and all the excess gas is flared. Utilisation of associated gases from GOSP for other purposes, e.g. as fuel or in chemical processes, usually requires compression of the separator flash gases and pipelining over large distances.

Based on reserves and the increasing demand for gas and gas products, Saudi Aramco built two world class gas processing plants, at Hawiyah and Haradh, which process non-associated gas exclusively. Following the Hawiyah Project, which was successfully completed in 2001 with the client's great satisfaction, JGC was awarded the contract for the Haradh Project involving the construction of a large-scale grassroots gas processing plant in the eastern desert region of Saudi Arabia. The Haradh Gas Plant came on-stream in June 2003. The plant is the second gas plant Saudi Aramco built to process non-associated gas (gas produced directly from gas reservoirs and not a secondary product of oil production).

Haradh Gas Plant Facilities include four gas-processing trains that perform gas dehydration, dew-point control and sales-gas compression, two gas sweetening and sulfur recovery trains, two condensate stabilizers and two sour-water strippers. A residence camp was built with a capacity to house 1000 men. Support facilties include an airstrip.

Similarly to the Hawiyah Project, the purpose of the Haradh project was to help increase domestic gas processing capacity in response to an increasing demand for gas fuel for power generation and as feedstock for the production of chemicals, and other purposes. JGC has abundant experience working with the client, Saudi Aramco, and drew on the specialized experience and know-how of its engineers who had been involved in earlier projects for Saudi Aramco to complete the project two months ahead of schedule. Through the success of the Haradh Project, JGC solidified its business presence in Saudi Arabia. This new gas plant provided an additional 1.5 billion cubic feet per day of sales gas.

The Planet Labs imagery of the "Harad Gas Plant" further complicates open source interpretation of this event. The "Harad Gas Plant" nomenclature is relatively poorly attested, with slightly fewer than 200 citations in Google, whereas the nomenclature "Haradh Gas Plant" is more abundently attested, with about 3,700 citations. Closer examination reveals these terms both reference the same facility [it is Arabic, after all]. But the facility depicted in the Planet Labs imagery is not the same facility as reported by the company that built the plant. Instead, the Planet Labs image almost certainly covers the Hawiyah Gas Plant, to the North of Haradh. Of course, the imagery of Haradh provided by the company that built the plant has no resemblance to the Haradh gas Plant imagery in Google Earth - the company imagery is of Haradh GOSP 2, which is some 30 km to the north of the Haradh Gas Plant, along highway 75.

Haradh gas processing plant Haradh gas processing plant

Haradh Gas Pant - Planet Labs Haradh Gas Pant - Planet Labs Haradh gas processing plant

In 2003, Saddam Hussein was prepared to blow up his entire economy. All over the oil infrastructure practically all of the oil and gas separation platforms were mined or booby-trapped. The southern Iraq oil infrastructure was captured intact by the coalition, which averted the potential possibility of an environmental disaster.

Since September 2014, the coalition conducted strikes against oil-related facilities, infrastructure and equipment in Syria to deprive the ISIL of oil revenue. Coalition airstrikes have attacked ISIL oil tankers, oil and gas separation plants, wellheads and pumping infrastructure, and the self-proclaimed ISIL ministry of oil headquarters in Mosul, affecting management of illicit oil operations.

For example, on 03 January 2016, near Dayr Az Zawr, three Coalistion strikes hit an ISIL gas and oil separation plant and destroyed an ISIL technical vehicle, an ISIL excavator, two ISIL front end loaders, and damaged a separate ISIL front end loader. On 10 February 2016, near Dayr Az Zawr, the Coalition "conducted strikes against the Omar Gas and Oil Separation Plant." Near Abu Kamal, on 26 February 2016, two strikes struck an ISIL petroleum, oil, and lubricant separation vessel and an ISIL gas and oil separation plant and crude oil collection point. For 17th-18th November 2016, the Coalition reported: "Near Abu Kamal, two strikes struck two ISIL oil and gas separation plants." For November 18th-19th: "Near Dayr Az Zawr, one strike struck an ISIL gas and oil separation plant."

Task force officials define a strike as one or more kinetic events that occur in roughly the same geographic location to produce a single, sometimes cumulative, effect. Therefore, officials explained, a single aircraft delivering a single weapon against a lone ISIL vehicle is one strike, but so is multiple aircraft delivering dozens of weapons against buildings, vehicles and weapon systems in a compound, for example, having the cumulative effect of making those targets harder or impossible for ISIL to use. Accordingly, officials said, they do not report the number or type of aircraft employed in a strike, the number of munitions dropped in each strike, or the number of individual munition impact points against a target.

Saudi Arabias Energy Minister Prince Abdulaziz bin Salman said that the latest attacks on Aramcos oil facilities has resulted in the halt of an estimated 5.7 million barrels of crude oil supplies, or about 50 percent of Aramcos production. Saudi Arabias Energy Minister Prince Abdulaziz bin Salman said on Sunday that the latest attacks on Aramcos oil facilities has resulted in the halt of an estimated 5.7 million barrels of crude oil supplies, or about 50 percent of Aramcos production.

Following the drone attacks on Saudi Aramco's oil facilities, Saudi energy minister Prince Abdulaziz bin Salman responded swiftly, pledging to use the Kingdom's oil reserves to offset the disruption of supply for customers. The US Energy Department (DOE) said it was ready to tap into its Strategic Petroleum Reserves, if necessary, to offset any supply disruptions to oil markets as a result of the attack on Saudi Arabia's oil facilities. The reserves hold 630 million barrels operated and maintained by DOE for exactly this purpose, the Department said in a statement. US Secretary of Energy Rick Perry has also directed the energy departments leadership to coordinate with the International Energy Agency (IEA) on potential available options for global action if needed, the statement said.

Attack RangeYemens Houthi militia claimed responsibility for drone attacks on two Saudi Aramco oil installations in the Kingdoms Eastern Province, the militias military spokesman said on Al Masirah TV. The broadcaster said the Houthis had deployed 10 drones against the sites in Abqaiq and Khurais, and the militia pledged to widen the range of its attacks on Saudi Arabia, which leads a coalition fighting them in Yemen.

The Iran-backed Houthi militia had also launched several other drones targeting the Kingdom. On May 14, the Houthis also claimed an attack by explosive-laden drones that targeted Saudi Aramco pipelines in al-Dawadmi. Later, a report by The Wall Street Journal cited US officials familiar with the intelligence as saying that the attack originated from Iraq, not Yemen. They said that the attack was carried out by Iran-backed militias in Iraq. The Aramco pumping station in Saudi Arabia's al-Dawadmi, which was targeted on May 14, is located around 500 kilometers from the Iraqi border and 800 kilometers from the Yemen border.

US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo blamed Iran, saying it "has now launched an unprecedented attack on the world's energy supply". "There is no evidence the attacks came from Yemen," Pompeo said, referring to the Houthis' claim of responsibility. He did not provide any evidence to support his claim.

Iran dismissed accusations by the United States that Tehran was behind drone attacks that set ablaze two major Saudi Aramco oil installations, as Saudi Arabia raced to restore operations at the damaged facilities. Iran's foreign ministry on Sunday called the US allegations "meaningless" and said they were meant to justify actions against Iran. "Such remarks ... are more like plotting by intelligence and secret organisations to damage the reputation of a country and create a framework for future actions," spokesman Abbas Mousavi said.

"Having failed at 'max pressure', US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo turning to 'max deceit'," Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif wrote. "US and its clients are stuck in Yemen because of illusion that weapon superiority will lead to military victory," he added, calling for talks to end the war in the Arab world's most impoverished country.

A commander with Iran's elite Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps said that US bases and aircraft carriers around Iran were within range of the country's missiles. "Everybody should know that all American bases and their aircraft carriers in a distance of up to 2,000 kilometres (1,243 miles) around Iran are within the range of our missiles," Amirali Hajizadeh was quoted as saying by the semi-official Tasnim news agency."Iran has always been ready for a "full-fledged" war", he added, without mentioning the attacks in Saudi Arabia.

Washington's accusations threw into doubt reported efforts by Trump to arrange a meeting with Iranian President Hassan Rouhani at the United Nations General Assembly later in September. "This is being seen by many here as an attempt yet again to try to pressure Iran to have this meeting," Al Jazeera's Dorsa Jabbari, reporting from Tehran, said. "By accusing Iran without any evidence of being behind such an attack, analysts say the US government is trying to force Iran's hands to the negotiating table - but the Iranians have said over and over again that ... under the current conditions - the US withdrawal from the nuclear deal and the imposition of a series of sanctions - they will not have that dialogue."

Yemen's Houthi rebels, who claimed responsibility for devastating attacks on Saudi oil facilities, threatened to carry out more strikes and urged foreigners to stay away. "We assure the Saudi regime that our long hand can reach any place we want at any time we choose," Houthi military spokesman Brigadier Yahya Saree said. Yemen's Houthi rebels warned that the attacked sites of Saudi Arabian national energy giant Aramco are still in their sights. "We warn companies and foreigners to stay away from Aramco plants that we struck because they are still in our sights and could be hit at any time," Houthi military spokesman Yahya Sarea said in a statement reported by the group-controlled Saba news agency. "We reaffirm to the Saudi regime that our hands can reach any place at any time ... Saudi Arabia should stop its aggression and economic blockade against Yemen," Sarea said.

Cruise MissileSaudi Arabias Ministry of Defense said 18 September 2019 it would display the Iranian weapons used in the recent attacks on Saudi Aramco facilities, the ministry said in a statement. The ministry also said it would hold a press conference. Col. Turki al-Maliki, spokesman for the Saudi-led military coalition fighting in Yemen, said Saudi Arabia believes the attacks were launched from a location north of the country, based on the direction of the cruise missiles when they struck the oil facilities, and the distance they can travel. Many hit on their west-northwest-facing sides. US officials have said there were indications of unusual activity at an Iranian base immediately before the attacks. Officials say the projectiles appeared to come from a base in the northern region of the Persian Gulf near Irans border with Iraq.

The cruise missile attacks on an oil facilities the countrys east on 14 September 2019 raised questions about Riyadhs defenses. The American-made Patriot defence system used by Saudi Arabia to protect key installations wasnt designed to shoot down terrain-hugging cruise missiles. Imagery of the Abqaiq processing site, and nearby Khurais oil field, showed only the French Shahine missile system and a handful of anti aircraft guns. But none of these systems were designed to counter cruise missiles.

Michael Duitsman, a researcher at the James Martin Center for Nonproliferation Studies in Monterey, California, noted that imagery from just a few days before the attack shows gun emplacements in the south west and south west corners of the facility standing empty. Duitsman noted "Even if the air defenses did respond, they were short-handed - the south-eastern and south-western gun emplacements were empty. And with old equipment defending a site well inside of Saudi Arabia, these probably weren't the RSADF's elite troops." Duitsman observed ".... that's definitely a Patriot battery to the east of Abqaiq. Looks like it was fairly empty on September 16, though."

Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said We want to make sure that infrastructure and resources are put in place such that attacks like this would be less successful than this one appears to have been.... This is an attack of a scale weve just not seen before. Seth Jones of the Center for Strategic and International Studies suggested in August 2019 that The vulnerability of Saudi Arabias ... critical infrastructure is probably impossible to entirely defend.... Saudi Arabia is so vulnerable that defensive measures, while they are important, will not ever solve the problem. Jones said the best approach is deterrence -- convincing Iran that it would pay an enormous cost for attacking Saudi oil facilities. Left un-said was how to restore deterrence, should deterrence fail.

Saudi Arabia fully restored oil output after attacks on its facilities last month and is now focused on the listing of Saudi Aramco, its energy minister Prince Abdulaziz bin Salman said 03 October 2019. The kingdom's oil production capacity now stands at 11.3 million barrels per day, he told an energy conference in Russia, adding: "We all rose to the challenge."

"We have stabilised production capacity, we are at 11.3 ... we still have the kit and the tools to overcome any future challenges..." The comments follow attacks on two major oil production facilities on September 14 that knocked out more than half the production of the world's top oil-exporting nation, prompting concerns over the global supply of oil as well as the company's prospects ahead of a highly-anticipated initial public offering (IPO).

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Page last modified: 14-10-2019 19:07:59 ZULU