Saudi de facto ruler Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman told United States (US) president, Donald Trump by telephone that Riyadh had the will and capability “to confront and deal with this terrorist aggression,” according to Saudi state news agency SPA.
The United States condemned the attacks and Trump told the crown prince that Washington was ready to work with the kingdom to guarantee its security, according to the White House. The US Department of Energy also said it was ready to release oil from its strategic petroleum reserve if necessary. Energy Secretary Rick Perry also said his department would work with the International Energy Agency, which coordinates energy policies of industrialised nations if global action is needed.
Saudi Arabia, leading a Sunni Muslim coalition that intervened in Yemen in 2015 against the Houthis, has blamed regional rival Shiite Iran for previous attacks, which Tehran denies. Riyadh accuses Iran of arming the Houthis, a charge denied by the group and Tehran.
Coalition spokesman Col. Turki al-Malki said an investigation had been launched into who planned and executed the strikes. He said the Western-backed alliance would counter threats to global energy security and economic stability.
Aramco Chief Executive Amin Nasser said there were no casualties from the attacks.
Saudi Energy Minister Prince Abdulaziz bin Salman said Aramco would have more information within 48 hours, and it would draw down oil in storage to compensate for the loss. Aramco is in the process of planning what is expected to be the world’s largest initial public offering.
“Abqaiq is perhaps the most critical facility in the world for oil supply,” said Jason Bordoff, who runs the Center on Global Energy Policy at Columbia University and served on the U.S. National Security Council during Barack Obama’s presidency. “The risk of tit-for-tat regional escalation that pushes oil prices even higher has just gone up significantly.”
Abqaiq is 60 km (37 miles) southwest of Aramco’s Dhahran headquarters. The oil processing plant handles crude from the world’s largest conventional oilfield, the supergiant Ghawar, and for export to terminals Ras Tanura — the world’s biggest offshore oil loading facility — and Juaymah. It also pumps westward across the kingdom to Red Sea export terminals.
According to VOA report, two of the sources said Ghawar was flaring gas after the strikes disrupted gas processing facilities. Khurais, 190 km (118 miles) farther southwest, contains the country’s second-largest oilfield.
“These attacks against critical infrastructure endanger civilians, are unacceptable, and sooner or later will result in innocent lives being lost,” the U.S. Embassy quoted Ambassador John Abizaid as saying in a Twitter post.
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Andrew Murrison, a British foreign affairs minister, called on the Houthis to stop threatening civilian areas and Saudi commercial infrastructure.
It was the latest in a series of Houthi missile and drone strikes on Saudi cities that have largely been intercepted but have recently hit targets, including the Shaybah oilfield last month and oil pumping stations in May. Both those attacks caused fires but did not disrupt production.
“This is a relatively new situation for the Saudis. For the longest time they have never had any real fears that their oil facilities would be struck from the air,” Kamran Bokhari, founding director of the Washington-based Center for Global Policy, told Reuters.
Aramco’s CEO said in a statement that the situation had been brought under control. A Reuters witness said the fire in Abqaiq appeared to have been extinguished by early evening.