OPEC kingpin Saudi Arabia said it had stopped pumping crude oil along a major pipeline on Tuesday following a drone attack, hours after Yemen’s Huthi rebels said they had targeted vital Saudi installations.
Energy Minister Khalid al-Falih said two pumping stations on the pipeline from the oil-rich Eastern Province to the Red Sea had been targeted early on Tuesday. The vital pipeline has a capacity of at least five million barrels per day. “Saudi Aramco took precautionary measures and temporarily stopped operation of the pipeline, as it is evaluating the situation and working on restoring the operations of the affected pump station and the pipeline,” Falih said in a statement cited by state news agency SPA.
The 1,200-kilometre pipeline carries crude from Saudi Arabia’s main eastern oil fields to the Red Sea port city of Yanbu in the west. It was created several decades ago as an alternative for Saudi crude exports if the strategically vital Strait of Hormuz at the mouth of the Gulf were to be closed. The pumping stations reportedly targeted lie west of the capital Riyadh, at Dawadmi and Afeef. Yemen’s Huthi rebels said Tuesday they had attacked several vital Saudi targets with drones.
The reported pipeline attacks came amid spiralling tensions in the Gulf, following a series of mysterious attacks on ships off the coast of the UAE and a major US military deployment to the region. Falih condemned the attacks. “The latest acts of terrorism and sabotage in the Arabian Gulf… not only target the Kingdom but also the security of oil supplies to the world and the global economy,” he said. “These attacks prove again that it is important for us to face terrorist entities, including the Houthi militias in Yemen that are backed by Iran.”