Damage at Saudi gas field 'limited' after Houthi drone attack, says minister

The attack is not the first to hit vital petrochemical infrastructure, although supply has not been interrupted

FILE PHOTO: An Aramco oil tank is seen at the Production facility at Saudi Aramco's Shaybah oilfield in the Empty Quarter, Saudi Arabia May 22, 2018. Picture taken May 22, 2018. REUTERS/Ahmed Jadallah/File Photo
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Authorities in Saudi Arabia have brought a fire at a major oil field under control after Houthi rebels in Yemen fired weaponised drones at the facility.

Saudi state oil firm Aramco said the fire at Shaybah oil field did not cause any injuries or disrupt output on Saturday.

“One of the units of a natural gas plant in the Shaybah petroleum field was attacked by drones, resulting in a controlled fire – causing limited damage, and no human injuries, thankfully,” said Khalid Al Falih, the Saudi Minister of Energy, Industry and Mineral Resources and the chairman of Saudi Aramco.

“The Kingdom’s oil production was not affected by the terrorist act,” the Saudi Press Agency quoted him as saying.

"Saudi Aramco’s response team controlled a limited fire this morning at the Shaybah NGL (natural gas liquids) facility," the company said in a statement. "There were no injuries and no interruptions to Saudi Aramco’s oil operations."

Shayba is more than 1,000 km away from Houthi-controlled territory in northwestern Yemen.

The field is located near the border with the United Arab Emirates, Saudi Arabia's main partner in the Sunni Arab coalition to restore the internationally recognised government to Yemen.

Mr Al Falih said the kingdom “condemns this cowardly attack, and affirms that this act of terrorism and sabotage, is an extension of those acts that have recently targeted the global oil supply chains, including oil pipelines in the Kingdom, and oil tankers in the Arabian Gulf and others.”

“This targeting of vital facilities targets not only the Kingdom, but also the security of energy supplies to the world, and thus poses a threat to the global economy,” Mr Al Falih said.

In May, Aramco, which produces and sells oil on behalf of the Saudi state, had to temporarily shutdown the country’s East-West pipeline after a similar attack by Houthi rebels on two pumping stations. The Houthis claimed responsibility for the attack.

The pipeline has the capacity to transport up to 5 million barrels per day of oil but again the short interruption did not impact output – the company said at the time.

While the Houthis have fired hundreds of ballistic missiles, and now an increasing number of weaponised drones, at targets in the kingdom from northern Yemen in recent years, the number and severity has increased as tensions have risen between the United States and Iran – the rebel’s main backer.

The attack in May came just days after four tankers, including two owned by Aramco, were sabotaged off the coast of the UAE port in Fujairah.

The coalition has responded to the drone attacks with air strikes on Houthi targets in Sanaa and other areas held by the group, which controls several large urban centres in Yemen.

Riyadh has accused Tehran of supplying the Houthis with the missiles and drones used in attacks on Saudi cities.