Oil prices soar above $71 per barrel as tensions escalate with Yemen
Houthi rebels have claimed responsibility for drone and missile attacks on key oilfield infrastructure in Saudi Arabia, increasing instability in the region and driving crude prices to a 14-month high.
Saudi Arabia, the world’s top oil exporter, said its energy facilities had been attacked, threatening “the security and stability” of global supplies.
The Saudi Energy Ministry said a petroleum storage tank in the Ras Tanura crude export terminal in the country’s Gulf coast was attacked on Sunday morning by a drone coming in from the sea.
Ras Tanura is a huge oil terminal, with export capacity of some 6.5 million barrels per day – around 7% of global demand.
Families under fire
Sunday evening, shrapnel from a ballistic missile rained down in Dhahran, where state oil company Aramco has its headquarters, and near where thousands of employees and their families live, said the ministry.
It added that the attacks “did not result in any injury or loss of life or property”.
Yemen’s Iran-allied Houthi fighters claimed responsibility for the attacks and said they had also focused on military targets in the Saudi cities of Dammam, Asir and Jazan.
The attacks on a petroleum tank farm at Ras Tanura port and on Aramco facilities in Dhahran were “cowardly terrorist attacks”, a defence ministry spokesperson said in a statement on state news agency SPA.
Saudi forces subsequently launched retaliatory airstrikes on Yemen’s capital city Sana’a.
The Houthis also claimed they had carried out a missile attack last Thursday on a Saudi Aramco petroleum products depot in the Red Sea city of Jeddah. The insurgents had hit the same facility last November, an attack which the Saudi-led coalition later admitted had caused a fire at the plant.
The attacks in recent days are the most serious against Saudi oil installations since a key processing facility and two oilfields came under fire in September 2019, halting around half the nation’s crude production for several days.
Yemeni Houthi rebels also claimed responsibility for those attacks, although Saudi government officials blamed Iran, reported Bloomberg.
Towards the end of the previous US administration, then-president Donald Trump designated the Houthis as a foreign terrorist group.
However, the recently installed administration of US President Joe Biden last month said it was reversing the designation amid its renewed efforts to end the six-year conflict between the Yemeni government and Houthi rebels.