A weekend attack on key oil facilities in Saudi Arabia caused energy prices to spike on Monday. (Photo by THE ASSOCIATED PRESS)

Energy prices spike after Saudi oil attack, US blaming Iran

DUBAI, United Arab Emirates — Global energy prices spiked on Monday after a weekend attack on key oil facilities in Saudi Arabia caused the worst disruption to world supplies on record, an assault for which President Donald Trump warned that the U.S. was “locked and loaded” to respond.

U.S. officials offered satellite images of the damage at the heart of the kingdom’s crucial Abqaiq oil processing plant and a key oil field, alleging the pattern of destruction suggested the attack on Saturday came from either Iraq or Iran — rather than Yemen, as claimed by Iranian-backed Houthi rebels there.

Iran for its part called the U.S. allegations “maximum lies.”

The Houthis on Monday warned of more attacks on Saudi oil facilities and urged foreign companies doing business in the kingdom to stay away from its energy sites. Yahia Sarie, a rebel spokesman, said facilities such as the Abqaiq oil processing plant and the oil field hit this weekend could again “be targeted at any time.”

In Vienna, U.S. Secretary of Energy Rick Perry condemned what he called “Iran’s attack on the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia” in an address to the International Atomic Energy Agency’s general conference.

“This behaviour is unacceptable and they must be held responsible,” Perry said of Iran. “Make no mistake about it, this was a deliberate attack on the global economy and the global energy market.”

He added that “despite Iran’s malign efforts, we are very confident that the market is resilient and will respond” and said that Trump has authorized the release of strategic oil reserves should the U.S. need them.

But actions on any side could break into the open a twilight war that’s been raging just below the surface of the wider Persian Gulf in recent months.

Already, there have been mysterious attacks on oil tankers that America blames on Tehran, at least one suspected Israeli strike on Shiite forces in Iraq, and Iran has shot down a U.S. military surveillance drone.

Benchmark Brent crude gained nearly 20% in the first moments of trading Monday before settling down to over 8% higher as trading continued. A barrel of Brent traded up $5.33 to $65.55.

That spike represented the biggest percentage value jump in Brent crude since the lead up to the 1991 Gulf War that saw a U.S.-led coalition expel Iraqi dictator Saddam Hussein’s forces from Kuwait.

U.S. benchmark West Texas crude was up around 8%. U.S. gasoline and heating oil similarly were up over 8% and 7% respectively before markets opened in New York.

Saturday’s attack halted production of 5.7 million barrels of crude a day, more than half of Saudi Arabia’s global daily exports and more than 5% of the world’s daily crude oil production. Most of that output goes to Asia.

At 5.7 million barrels of crude oil a day, the Saudi disruption would be the greatest on record for world markets, according to figures from the Paris-based International Energy Agency. It just edges out the 5.6 million-barrels-a-day disruption around the time of Iran’s 1979 Islamic Revolution, according to the IEA.

Saudi Arabia has pledged that its stockpiles would keep global markets supplied as it rushes to repair damage at the Abqaiq facility and its Khurais oil field.

Trump said the U.S. had reason to believe it knows who was behind the attack — his secretary of state had blamed Iran the previous day. He assured his Twitter followers that “we are … locked and loaded” depending on verification and were waiting to hear from the Saudis as to who they believe was behind the attack and “under what terms we would proceed!”

The tweets followed a National Security Council meeting at the White House that included Vice-President Mike Pence, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and Defence Secretary Mark Esper.

A U.S. official said all options, including a military response, were on the table, but said no decisions had been made Sunday. The official spoke on condition of anonymity to discuss the internal deliberations.

Trump’s “locked and loaded” comment mirrors similar remarks he made following Iran shooting down a U.S. military surveillance drone in June. However, the president said he pulled back from retaliating against Iran at the last minute.

U.S. officials also offered highly detailed satellite photos of the Saudi sites that show damage suggesting the attack came from the north, where Iran or Iraq are, rather than from Yemen to the south. Iraq’s prime minister has denied the attack came from his country, where Iranian-backed Shiite militias operate. Iraqi Premier Adel Abdel-Mahdi said he received a call Monday from Pompeo, without elaborating.

Iranian Foreign Ministry spokesman Abbas Mousavi on Sunday called U.S. allegations “blind and futile comments.”

“The Americans adopted the ‘maximum pressure’ policy against Iran, which, due to its failure, is leaning toward ‘maximum lies,’” Mousavi said.

On Monday, Mousavi dismissed as mere “speculation” media reports about a possible meeting between Trump and Iranian President Hassan Rouhani on the sidelines of the U.N. General Assembly later in September. The U.S. has said it will remain open for talks with Iran but Mousavi said a Trump-Rouhani meeting was not on the agenda.

The U.S. satellite photos appear to show the attack on Abqaiq may have struck the most-sensitive part of the facility, its stabilization area. The Washington-based Center for Strategic and International Studies has said the area includes “storage tanks and processing and compressor trains — which greatly increases the likelihood of a strike successfully disrupting or destroying its operations.”

Stabilization means processing so-called sour crude oil into sweet crude. That allows it to be transported onto transshipment points on the Persian Gulf and the Red Sea, or to refineries for local production.

The attack “damaged five to seven spheroids and five out of ten stabilization towers,” said Fernando Ferreira, the director of geopolitical risk at the Washington-based Rapidan Energy Group.

Five “or so stabilization towers appear to be destroyed and will have to be rebuilt — this will take many months,” Ferreira said. “The sophisticated attack now seems likely to reduce Abqaiq’s 7 (million barrels of crude oil a day) capacity for an indefinite period” measured in months.

Saudi Aramco did not respond to questions from The Associated Press regarding damage at Abqaiq and the satellite images.

By The Associated Press

oil & gas

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Comments are closed

Just Posted

Man and woman accused of breaking into rural lease site arrested

Pair arrested after vehicle got stuck in field near Huxley

WE group to stop running federal volunteer program, return funds already paid

OTTAWA — The WE organization won’t manage the federal government’s $900-million program… Continue reading

Provincial watchdog probes often don’t lead to charges against police

An analysis of data from civilian police watchdogs in Canada shows that… Continue reading

Germany finalizing plan to phase out coal energy

BERLIN — Germany’s parliament was preparing Friday to pass new legislation finalizing… Continue reading

Le Chateau starts work on producing 500,000 hospital gowns in Canada

MONTREAL — Le Chateau Inc. says it has started the manufacturing of… Continue reading

PODCAST: Black Lives Matter in central Alberta Part 2

More insight into the Black Lives Matter movement of central Alberta

New city program brings family fun to neighbourhood near you

The City of Red Deer is starting a new program this summer… Continue reading

Toronto FC leaves for Florida with concerns over COVID-19 situation that awaits

Toronto FC heads to Florida with some unease given recent positive tests… Continue reading

Michael Dawe: Canada Day festivities have been interfered with before

Because of the restrictions imposed as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic,… Continue reading

8-month wait almost over for resumption of Chinese soccer

An eight-month wait for the new Chinese Super League to start is… Continue reading

Save-On-Foods stores donate to Red Deer Food Bank

Thanks to some hungry central Albertans, the Red Deer Food Bank is… Continue reading

Eastwood’s ankle forced production shift for ‘The Outpost’

LONDON — An accident requiring two screws in his ankle nearly prevented… Continue reading

Patrick Watson says Indigenous acknowledgment ‘censored’ from Canada Day show

MONTREAL — Singer-songwriter Patrick Watson says Heritage Canada edited out a land… Continue reading

Canadian engineer released from Egypt needs treatment, family says

Canadian engineer released from Egypt needs treatment, family says

Most Read