Saudi Arabia vows quick recovery despite damage to plant

A oil stabilization tower, charred by the weekend attack, is seen in the Khurais oil field. — SPA

DHAHRAN — Saudi Aramco promised Friday that oil production would be quickly restored as it revealed extensive damage, to more than 80 international journalists, at the Khurais oilfield, on a day Chinese President Xi Jinping condemned the attack on two oil installations which happened last weekend.

The international journalists visited on Friday the sites of attacks on Saudi Arabia’s oil industry that shook global energy markets. Saudi Arabia flew the journalists to see Aramco’s Abqaiq oil-processing facility, described by Saudi Aramco as “the largest crude oil stabilization plant in the world.”

The journalists also visited the Khurais oil field to see the damage from the attack. The oil field is believed to produce over 1 million barrels of crude oil a day. It has estimated reserves of over 20 billion barrels of oil, according to Aramco. They told journalists the oil field was back online within 24 hours of the attack.

An oil stabilization tower could be seen to be damaged by the attack, standing charred in the heat of Friday afternoon in the Saudi desert. Other pipes bore holes from damage in the attack.

At Khurais, reporters were shown repair work under way, with cranes erected around two burnt-out stabilization columns, which form part of oil-gas separation units, and melted pipes.

"We are working 24/7," one executive of Saudi Aramco said, adding that Aramco is confident full production at Khurais would resume by the end of September.

Meanwhile Custodian of the Two Holy Mosques King Salman received a call from Chinese President Xi Jinping on Friday and condemned the attack. The Chinese President pointed out that this attack is a serious violation of the security and stability of the Kingdom and affects the global energy market.

The Chinese leader also stressed the comprehensive strategic partnership between the two countries, reiterating that China stands firmly beside the Kingdom and supported the security and stability of the it, as well as its efforts exerted to ensure its security and territorial integrity and expressing his country's appreciation of the positive measures taken by the Kingdom for ensuring the continuation of oil supplies.

The King thanked the Chinese President for condemning such criminal acts, which represent a serious escalation and pose a major threat to the security and stability of the region and to oil supplies heading to the world market.

The Custodian of the Two Holy Mosques reasserted, that following completing the investigation into the attacks on Saudi Aramco facilities, the Kingdom will take appropriate measures to preserve its security and stability.

Ealier, Minister of State for Foreign Affairs Adel Al-Jubeir said on Thursday the attacks were an "extension of the Iranian regime's hostile and outlawed behavior".

“This vicious attack is an extension of Iran’s subversive and aggressive policies, and the international community must shoulder its responsibilities and take a firm stance against Iran’s criminal behavior,” Al-Jubeir tweeted.

“A complacency with Iran would encourage it to commit further subversive and hostile acts, which would have implications for international peace and security, not just the region.”

At the Khurais plant in the east of the Kingdom, charred pipes and supports were flanked by cranes as staff assessed damage on Friday.

"We will have production at the same level as before the strike by the end of this month — we are coming back stronger," asserted Fahad Al-Abdulkareem, a general manager for Saudi Aramco.

He said there were as many as 300 people onsite at the time of the aerial strikes early on Saturday morning.

"The whole thing... happened, with four strikes and explosions, with no single injury to any (staff)", he said, as he inspected damage. Badly warped thick metal piping — peppered with shrapnel during the aerial strikes — lay strewn around the area of the attack.

But Abdulkareem said that 30 percent of the Khurais plant was operational within 24 hours of the initial strikes.

Saudi officials this week unveiled what they said were fragments of 25 drones and cruise missiles fired at the two oil facilities on Saturday. "The attack was launched from the north and unquestionably sponsored by Iran," Defense Ministry spokesman Turki Al-Maliki said. — SG/Agencies