DRONE attacks on the world’s largest oil plant in Saudi Arabia is set to send petrol prices in the UK soaring amid drastic cuts to supply.
Experts claim the attacks are the “equivalent of 9/11” to the global oil industry, with fears prices at the pump across Britain could increase 5p per litre.
Prices could even spike to as high as $100(£80) per barrel if Saudi Arabia fails to quickly resume oil supply lost after attacks over the weekend, it is claimed.
Andrew Lipow, of consultants Lipow Oil Associates, predicted a 5p rise per litre of petrol and added: “This is a big deal.”
Attacks on two plants at the heart of the kingdom’s oil industry knocked out more than half of Saudi crude output.
State-run oil giant Saudi Aramco said the strikes would spark a drop in output of 5.7million barrels per day or more than five per cent of global crude supply.
An upped-priced $10(£8) barrel could mean the cost at petrol pumps would rise to between 3 and 4p per litre.
Tilak Doshi from oil and gas consultants Muse, Stancil and Co, said: “In the oil universe, this attack is perhaps equivalent to the 9/11 attacks.
“Abqaiq is easily the world’s single most important oil production and processing infrastructure site.”
And Iran earlier warned the US it’s “ready for a fully-fledged war” and American bases are “within range of our missiles”.
The threat, from a top Revolutionary Guards commander, comes hours after the drone attacks.
Iran dismissed accusations by the US that it was behind Saturday’s strikes on Saudi oil plants that disrupted world oil production.
Infernos raged at the plant in Abqaiq, Bugayg, and the country’s second largest oilfield in Khurais after Tehran-backed Houthi rebels in Yemen fired a flurry of rockets.
Huge plumes of black smoke could be seen coming from the oil facility.
A military spokesperson for these Yemeni rebels, who are locked into a bloody civil war, claimed responsibility for the strike on Saudi Arabia’s state-owned oil giant Aramco.
But US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said there was no evidence the attacks came from Yemen and accused Iran of “an unprecedented attack on the world’s energy supply.”
Pompeo urged overnight: “We call on all nations to publicly and unequivocally condemn Iran’s attacks.
“The United States will work with our partners and allies to ensure that energy markets remain well supplied and Iran is held accountable for its aggression.”
His tweets prompted a war of words, with Iranian foreign ministry spokesman Abbas Mousavi, dismissing the American claim as “pointless” on state TV.
And, a senior Revolutionary Guards commander warned that the Islamic Republic was ready for a “full-fledged” war and that US military assets were within range of Iranian missiles.
Amirali Hajizadeh, head of Iran’s Revolutionary Guards Corps Aerospace Force, told Tasnim news agency: “Everybody should know that all American bases and their aircraft carriers in a distance of up to 2,000km around Iran are within the range of our missiles.”
WHO IS TO BLAME?
Yemen’s Iran-aligned Houthi group said it had attacked two plants at the heart of Saudi Arabia’s oil industry.
Houthi rebels in neighbouring Yemen yesterday claimed responsibility for the pre-dawn drone strikes.
The assault follows earlier cross-border attacks on Saudi oil installations and on oil tankers in Gulf waters.
But, Pompeo rejected the claim, saying there was no evidence the attacks came from Yemen, where a Saudi-led military coalition has been battling the Houthis for over four years in a conflict widely seen as a proxy war between regional rivals Sunni Muslim Saudi Arabia and Shi’ite Iran.
Some Iraqi media outlets said the attack originated from Iraq, where Iran-backed paramilitary groups have wielded increasing power.
But Iraq denied this on Sunday and vowed to punish anyone who intended to use Iraq as a launchpad for attacks in the region.
The Wall Street Journal said that Saudi and US officials are probing the possibility that the strikes involved cruise missiles launched from Iran or Iraq.
“READY FOR WAR”
Saudi de facto ruler Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman told US President Donald Trump on Saturday that Riyadh was willing and able to deal with the “terrorist aggression”.
Turkey, an ally of Iran, condemned the drone assault.
But its foreign ministry recommended avoiding “all sorts of provocative steps” that could damage regional security and stability.
A senior Emirati official said the UAE, Riyadh’s main partner in the Western-backed military coalition in Yemen, would fully support Saudi Arabia as the assault “targets us all”.
The UAE has recently scaled down its military presence, leaving Riyadh to try to neutralise the Houthis to prevent Iran from gaining influence along its border.
IMPACT ON OIL
State-run oil company Saudi Aramco said the strikes would cut output by 5.7million barrels per day, or more than five per cent of global crude supply, at a time when Aramco is gearing up for a stock market listing.
Aramco gave no timeline for when output would resume but said early Sunday it would give a progress update in around 48 hours.
A source close to the matter told Reuters the return to full oil capacity could take “weeks, not days”.
The kingdom, the world’s top oil exporter, ships more than seven million barrels of oil to global destinations every day, and for years has served as the supplier of last resort to markets.
America said it was ready to tap its emergency oil reserves if needed after the attack on two oil plants, including the world’s biggest petroleum processing facility in Abqaiq.
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