Major Saudi Arabia oil facilities hit by Houthi drone strikes Yemen’s rebel movement says it launched strikes that sparked huge fire at processing facility 14 Sep 2019 https://www.theguardian.com/world/2019/sep/14/major-saudi-arabia-oil-facilities-hit-by-drone-strikes Houthi rebels have claimed responsibility for a drone attack on the world’s largest oil processing facility in Saudi Arabia which is vital to global energy supplies. The attacks on the processor and a major oilfield, operated by Saudi Aramco, on early Saturday sparked a huge fire, the kingdom’s interior ministry said. According to Reuters, threes sources claimed the assault had disrupted output and exports, with one source claiming 5 million barrels per day of crude production had been impacted – nearly half the kingdom’s output. The Wall Street Journal reported that Saudi Arabia is shutting down about half of its oil output because of the incident. Authorities have not confirmed whether oil production or exports were affected. A military spokesman for Yemen’s Iran-aligned Houthi rebels claimed responsibility for the strikes, saying 10 drones had been deployed in the attack. The Saudi-led coalition launched airstrikes on Yemen’s northern Saada province, a Houthi stronghold, on Saturday, a Reuters witness said. Houthi-run al Masirah TV said the warplanes targeted a military camp. Yahia Sarie made the announcement on Saturday in a televised address carried by the Houthi movement’s al-Masirah satellite news channel. Sarie said the rebels had attacked the Abqaiq oil processing facility and the Khurais oil field. He said attacks against the kingdom would get worse if the war in Yemen continued. “The only option for the Saudi government is to stop attacking us,” he said. A Saudi-led coalition has been at war with the rebels since March 2015. It was unclear whether there were any injuries in the attacks, or whether they would affect the country’s oil production. They are, however, likely to heighten tensions in the region, where Saudi Arabia and Iran are effectively fighting a proxy war in Yemen, and Tehran is at loggerheads with Washington over the latter’s withdrawal from its nuclear deal with world powers. Online videos apparently shot in Abqaiq included the sound of gunfire in the background. Smoke rose over the skyline and flames could be seen in the distance at the oil processing facility. The fires began after the sites were targeted by drones, the interior ministry said in a statement carried by the state-run Saudi Press Agency. It said an investigation was under way. Saudi Aramco describes its Abqaiq facility as the largest crude oil stabilisation plant in the world. It is thought to be able to process up to 7m barrels of crude a day. Bob McNally, who runs Rapidan Energy Group and served in the US National Security Council during the second Gulf War in 2003, told Reuters: “A successful attack on Abqaiq would be akin to a massive heart attack for the oil market and global economy.” Militants have targeted the plant in the past. Suicide bombers claiming to be from al-Qaida tried but failed to attack it in February 2006. The Khurais oil field is thought to produce more than 1m barrels of crude a day. It has estimated reserves of more than 20bn barrels, according to Aramco. There was no immediate impact on global oil prices, because markets are closed for the weekend. Benchmark Brent crude had been trading at just above $60 a barrel. Abqaiq is 205 miles (330km) north-east of Riyadh. A Saudi-led coalition has been at war with the Houthi movement in Yemen since March 2015. The Iranian-backed rebels hold the capital, Sana’a, and other territory in the Arab world’s poorest country. The war has triggered the world’s worst humanitarian crisis. The violence has pushed Yemen to the brink of famine and more than 90,000 people have been killed since 2015, according to the US-based Armed Conflict Location and Event Data Project, which tracks the conflict. Houthi rebels have been using drones in combat since the start of the Saudi-led war. The first appeared to be off-the-shelf, hobby-kit-style drones, but later versions have been nearly identical to Iranian models. Tehran denies supplying the rebels with weapons, but the west and Gulf Arab nations say it does. The rebels have flown drones into the radar arrays of Saudi Arabia’s Patriot missile batteries, according to Conflict Armament Research, disabling them and allowing them to fire ballistic missiles into the kingdom unchallenged. They launched drone attacks targeting Saudi Arabia’s crucial east-west pipeline in May as tensions heightened between Iran and the US. Houthi drones also struck the Shaybah oil field in August. The field produces 1m barrels of crude a day near the Saudi border with the United Arab Emirates. UN investigators have suggested that the rebels’ new UAV-X drone may have a range of up to 930 miles (1,500km), meaning they would be able to reach Saudi Arabia and the UAE.