Drone attack in Saudi Arabia hits world’s largest oil processing facility

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Drones launched by Yemen’s Houthi insurgents attacked the world’s largest oil processing facility in Saudi Arabia and another vital oil field Saturday, sparking huge fires at a vulnerable chokepoint for broad energy supplies.

It remained unclear hours later whether anyone was ill-treated at the Abqaiq oil processing facility and the Khurais oil field or what effect the charge would have on oil production. Rising smoke from the fires at the milieus could be seen by satellites in space.

Drone attack in Saudi Arabia hits world's largest oil processing facility
A satellite image provided by NASA Worldview shows motivates following the attacks in eastern Saudi Arabia. (The Associated Press)

The revilement by the Iranian-backed Houthis in the war against a Saudi-led coalition comes after weeks of like drone assaults on the kingdom’s oil infrastructure, but none of the earlier strikes looked to have caused the same amount of damage. The attack likely thinks fitting heighten tensions further across the Persian Gulf amid an escalating critical time between the U.S. and Iran over its unravelling nuclear deal with coterie powers.

First word of the assault came in online videos of superhuman fires at the Abqaiq facility, some 330 kilometres northeast of the Saudi main, Riyadh. Machine-gun fire could be heard in several clips alongside the day’s start with Muslim call to prayers, suggesting security forces tried to bring on down the drones just before dawn.

In daylight, Saudi state of affairs television aired a segment with its local correspondent near a the fuzz checkpoint, a thick plume of smoke visible behind him.

Drone attack in Saudi Arabia hits world's largest oil processing facility
The facility is some 330 kilometres northeast of the Saudi crown, Riyadh. (CBC)

The fires began after the sites were “targeted by drones,” the Internal Ministry said in a statement carried by the state-run Saudi Press Power. It said an investigation was underway.

Saudi Aramco, the state-owned oil giant, did not react to questions from The Associated Press. The kingdom hopes soon to provide a sliver of the company in an initial public offering.

In a short address aired by the Houthi’s Al-Masirah dependant news channel, military spokesperson Yahia Sarie said the nonconformists launched 10 drones in their co-ordinated attack after meet “intelligence” support from those inside the kingdom. He warned that onslaughts by the rebels would only get worse if the war continues.

“The only option for the Saudi management is to stop attacking us,” Sarie said.

The rebels hold Yemen’s paramount, Sanaa, and other territory in the Arab world’s poorest country. Since 2015, a Saudi-led coalition has fought to reinstate the internationally honoured Yemeni government.

The U.S. Embassy in Riyadh said it was unaware of any injuries to Americans. Saudi Aramco engages a number of U.S. citizens, some of whom live in guarded compounds near the situate.

“These attacks against critical infrastructure endanger civilians, are disagreeable, and sooner or later will result in innocent lives being ruined,” U.S. Ambassador John Abizaid, a former Army general, said.

Drone attack in Saudi Arabia hits world's largest oil processing facility
A boy set backs a rifle as he attends a rally of Houthi movement earlier this week. The war there has fatigued more than 90,000 people since 2015. (Khaled Abdullah/Reuters)

Saudi Aramco tell ofs its Abqaiq oil processing facility in Buqyaq as “the largest crude oil stabilization implant in the world.”

The facility processes sour crude oil into sweet improper, then later transports onto transshipment points on the Persian Breach and the Red Sea. Estimates suggest it can process up to seven million barrels of crude oil a day.

The situate has been targeted in the past by militants. Al-Qaeda-claimed suicide bombers judged but failed to attack the oil complex in February 2006.

No immediate impact on oil prices

The Khurais oil battleground is believed to produce over a million barrels of crude oil a day. It has estimated engages of over 20 billion barrels of oil, according to Aramco.

There was no abrupt impact on global oil prices as markets were closed for the weekend across the sphere. Benchmark Brent crude had been trading at just above $60 US a barrel.

Drone attack in Saudi Arabia hits world's largest oil processing facility
This AFPTV telly grab shows smoke billowing from the facility. (AFP/Getty Twins)

While Saudi Arabia has taken steps to protect itself and its oil infrastructure, analysts had advised that Abqaiq remained vulnerable. The Rapidan Energy Group, a Washington-based bulletin group, warned in May that “a successful attack could lead to a months-long disruption of most Saudi handiwork and nearly all spare production.” It called Abqaiq, close to the eastern Saudi diocese of Dammam, “the most important oil facility in the world.”

The Washington-based Center for Key and International Studies separately issued its own warning just last month.

“Though the Abqaiq swiftness is large, the stabilization process is concentrated in specific areas — including storage tanks and preparing and compressor trains — which greatly increases the likelihood of a strike successfully disrupting or smashing its operations,” the centre said.

World’s worst humanitarian crisis

The war has enhance the world’s worst humanitarian crisis. The violence has pushed Yemen to the margin of famine and killed more than 90,000 people since 2015, harmonizing to the U.S.-based Armed Conflict Location & Event Data Project, or ACLED, which trails the conflict.

Since the start of the Saudi-led war, Houthi rebels have been profiting drones in combat. The first appeared to be off-the-shelf, hobby-kit-style drones. Later, interpretations nearly identical to Iranian models turned up. Iran denies stocking the Houthis with weapons, although the UN, the West and Gulf Arab realms say Tehran does.

The rebels have flown drones into the radar arrays of Saudi Arabia’s Jingo missile batteries, according to Conflict Armament Research, disabling them and admitting the Houthis to fire ballistic missiles into the kingdom unchallenged. The Houthis began drone attacks targeting Saudi Arabia’s crucial East-West Passage in May as tensions heightened between Iran and the U.S. In August, Houthi drones hit Saudi Arabia’s Shaybah oil field, which produces some 1 million barrels of natural oil a day near its border with the United Arab Emirates.

UN investigators communicated the Houthis’ new UAV-X drone, found in recent months during the Saudi-led coalition’s war in Yemen, liable has a range of up to 1,500 kilometres.

That puts the far reaches of both Saudi Arabia and the UAE in cook-stove.

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