Saudi Arabia’s Oil Supply Fully Back Online, Energy Minister Says

September 17, 2019 Updated: September 17, 2019

DUBAI, United Arab Emirates—Saudi Arabia’s energy minister said on Sept. 17 that more than half of the country’s daily crude oil production that was knocked out by an attack has been recovered and that production capacity at its targeted plants would be fully restored by the end of the month.

“Where would you find a company in this whole world that went through such a devastating attack and came out like a phoenix?” Prince Abdulaziz bin Salman said about the state-owned Saudi Aramco, which was the target of the attacks. His question to reporters, many of them Saudi, drew applause.

Oil prices dropped sharply after Prince Abdulaziz’s comments. Brent crude futures settled at $64.55 a barrel, down $4.47, or 6.48 percent. WTI crude futures settled at $59.34 a barrel, down $3.56, or 5.66 percent.

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Saudi Aramco’s Abqaiq oil processing facility in Buqyaq, Saudi Arabia. (European Commission via AP)

The state-run company’s ability to quickly recover from an attack of this magnitude on its most important processing facility highlights not only its resilience, but its importance as the kingdom’s crown jewel.

The attack early Saturday struck a Saudi oil field and the world’s largest crude oil processing plant in the kingdom’s eastern region, taking out 5.7 million barrels of crude oil production per day for the kingdom, or about 5 percent of the world’s daily production.

Prince Abdulaziz said Aramco will honor its commitments to its customers this month by drawing from its reserves of crude oil and offering additional crude production from other oil fields.

He said production capacity would reach up to 11 million barrels a day by the end of September and 12 million barrels in November.

He said production at the Abqaiq processing facility is currently at 2 million barrels per day.

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Damage to the infrastructure at Saudi Aramco’s Kuirais oil field in Buqyaq, Saudi Arabia, on Sept. 15, 2019. (U.S. government/Digital Globe via AP)

His briefing to reporters was highly anticipated around the world, with oil prices spiking more than 14 percent on Monday on the first day of trading after the attacks on Saudi Arabia. It was the biggest single-day jump in years due to the damaging attack.

The attack also took out 2 billion cubic feet of daily gas production. Aramco, the Saudi oil company targeted, said no workers were wounded in the attack.

Iran-backed Houthi rebels in Yemen, which Saudi Arabia are at war with, claimed responsibility, saying drones were launched in the attack.

Saudi Arabia, however, has claimed the attack did not come from Yemen and said initial investigations show Iranian weapons were used.

Saudi fire
Thick black smoke rising from Saudi Aramco’s Abqaiq oil processing facility in Buqyaq, Saudi Arabia, on Sept. 14, 2019. (Satellite image from Planet Labs Inc via AP)

Vice President Mike Pence said Tuesday that the United States was reviewing evidence that suggests Iran was behind the attacks on Saudi oil facilities and stands ready to defend its interests and allies in the Middle East.

“We’re evaluating all the evidence. We’re consulting with our allies. And the president will determine the best course of action in the days ahead,” Pence said in a speech at the Heritage Foundation think tank in Washington.

President Donald Trump had warned that the United States was “locked and loaded” to respond to the attacks, but has emphasized he does not want a war.

Pompeo was traveling to Saudi Arabia on Tuesday to discuss the response to the attacks, Pence said.

“The United States of America will take whatever action is necessary to defend our country, our troops, and our allies in the Gulf. You can count on it,” Pence said Tuesday.

If Iran conducted Saturday’s attacks to pressure Trump to lighten sanctions aimed at pressuring Tehran over its nuclear program, that strategy will fail, Pence said.

Reuters contributed to this report.

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