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Saudis show journalists scene of oil industry attacks

The tour included the Abqaiq oil processing facility and the Khurais oil field.

(AP Photo/Amr Nabil)
(AP Photo/Amr Nabil)

By Fay Abuelgasim and Jon Gambrell, Associated Press

Saudi Arabia has taken journalists to the site of a missile and drone strike on the kingdom’s oil industry that shook global energy markets over the weekend.

The journalists arrived at the Abqaiq oil processing facility, described by state-run oil giant Saudi Aramco as “the largest crude oil stabilisation plant in the world”.

Video shot of the September 14 attack showed flames leaping into the air just before dawn, with thick black smoke rising from the site visible from space.

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Satellite image of fires after the attacks (Nasa Worldview/AP)

Iran denies being involved in the attack and its foreign minister has warned that any retaliatory strike by the US or Saudi Arabia will result in “an all-out war”.

Yemen’s Iranian-allied Houthi rebels claimed the assault, but analysts say the missiles used would not have enough range to reach the site from Yemen.

The missiles and drones also resemble Iranian-made weapons, although analysts say more study is needed to definitively link them to Tehran.

Saudi Arabia also flew journalists to its Khurais oil field to see the damage from the attack.

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(PA Graphics)

The oil field is believed to produce more than a million barrels of crude oil a day, and has estimated reserves of over 20 billion barrels, according to Aramco.

Officials said 110 contractors evacuated the site after the attack, but there were no injuries. They told journalists the oil field was back online within 24 hours of the attack.

An oil stabilisation tower could be seen bearing damage from the attack, standing charred in the heat of the Saudi desert. Other pipes bore holes from damage in the attack.

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A damaged pipe (Amr Nabil/AP)

The Abqaiq facility processes sour crude oil into sweet crude, then transports it to shipment points on the Persian Gulf and the Red Sea or to refineries for local production.

Estimates suggest it can process up to seven million barrels of crude oil a day. Saudi Arabia produced 9.65 million barrels a day in July.

The plant has been targeted in the past by militants. Al Qaida-claimed suicide bombers tried but failed to attack the oil complex in February 2006.

Elsewhere on Friday, Kuwait raised the security levels at its ports in response to the attacks. The state-run KUNA news agency published the decision, quoting Kuwait’s minister of commerce and industry. Khaled al-Roudhan said the decision affected commercial ports as well as oil facilities.

PA

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