Saudi Arabia on Friday revealed extensive damage to key oil facilities following last Saturday’s aerial strikes that were blamed on Iran, but vowed to quickly restore full production even as regional tensions soar.
Yemen’s Tehran-linked Huthi rebels, who on Friday announced a sudden halt to attacks on Saudi Arabia, claimed the strikes on state giant Aramco’s facilities in Khurais and the world’s largest oil processing facility at Abqaiq.
But Washington has pointed the finger at Tehran, condemning an “act of war” which knocked out half of Saudi Arabia’s oil production and on Friday prompted US President Donald Trump to sketch out the latest in a series of economic sanctions against Iran.
Abqaiq was struck 18 times while nearby Khurais was hit four times in a raid that triggered multiple explosions and towering flames that took hours to extinguish, Aramco officials said.
“Many critical areas of the (Abqaiq) plant were hit,” an Aramco official said, pointing out the strikes had a high degree of precision.
A towering stabilisation column, normally silver, had been charred black with a gaping hole blown in the shaft’s base.
A separator plant also appeared ravaged in the raids and was surrounded by scaffolding and white-helmeted workers.
“There are 112 shift workers here in normal times. Now 6,000 workers are involved in restoration work,” said Aramco official Khaled al-Ghamdi, pointing at damaged infrastructure.
Aramco said it was shipping technical equipment from the US and Europe to speed up repairs.
Aramco flew dozens of international journalists to the two sites to show it was speeding up repairs, giving rare access to the nerve centre of the world’s largest oil producer as it seeks to shore up investor confidence ahead of a planned initial public offering (IPO).
“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, an Aramco general manager, during the visit to Khurais.
Badly warped thick metal piping — peppered with shrapnel during the aerial strikes — lay strewn around the area of the Khurais attack.