Limited Loading Delays Seen After Attack on Abqaiq Oil Plant

Courtesy U.S. State Department

Published Sep 16, 2019 2:11 PM by The Maritime Executive

The attack on Saudi Aramco's sprawling Abqaiq oil terminal has created a backlog of nearly a dozen tankers awaiting loading at Ras Tanura and Juaymah, a small increase from normal levels seen in recent weeks, according to Reuters. 

The extent of the supply disruption remains to be seen, and Saudi officials say that loadings have begun again. AIS tracking data showed one vessel - the product tanker Nave Alderamin - alongside at Ras Tanura's liquid bulk terminal, four crude tankers at the Ju'aymah SPM loading buoys and an LPG tanker located at the Ju'aymah gas terminal. 10 oil tankers were waiting at nearby anchorages. 

Nearly six million barrels of Saudi output - about five percent of the global supply - are offline due to the attack. Saudi Aramco maintains about 60 days' worth of oil storage reserves at domestic and overseas facilities, and barring further disruption, analysts say that it will be able to meet its contracted obligations for the forseeable future. The price of Brent futures spiked 20 percent early Monday, reaching $70 per barrel, but it eased slightly to a 12 percent increase ($67) by midday. Oil market analysts suggest that the medium-term impact on supply and price will likely be limited if Aramco can bring Abqaiq back online. 

Houthi rebels in Yemen claimed responsibility for the attacks, but U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo has accused Iran of masterminding the action, which resulted in more than a dozen hits on the critical facility. "Tehran is behind nearly 100 attacks on Saudi Arabia while [President Hassan] Rouhani and [Foreign Minister Javad] Zarif pretend to engage in diplomacy. Amid all the calls for de-escalation, Iran has now launched an unprecedented attack on the world’s energy supply.  There is no evidence the attacks came from Yemen," he said. 

Middle Eastern diplomats told CNN Monday that the U.S. is claiming that it has evidence that the attacks likely originated inside Iran. The State Department has not yet released evidence backing Pompeo's claim. 

"Claims of responsibility have been made, but as Secretary of State Mike Pompeo has clearly stated, there is no evidence that the attacks came from Yemen. Emerging information indicates that responsibility lies with Iran," said U.S. ambassador to the United Nations Kelly Craft on Monday.