Attack on Saudi Oil Fields – Who Don’ It?

Two coordinated attacks on Saudi oil fields took place on the night of September 13th. The US is blaming the regime in Iran, but it is much much more complicated than that.

As Moonofalabama points out here and here, this attack was very complex and precise, down to the timing of the event:

The pictures show some 17 points of impact. There are cars visible in the second more detailed picture that demonstrate the gigantic size of the place. The targets were carefully selected. At least 11 of those were egg shaped tanks with a diameter of some 30 meter (100 foot). These are likely tanks for pressurized (liquidized) gas that receive the condensate vapor from the stabilization process. They all have now quite neat holes in their upper shells.

The piping to and from the egg shaped tanks shows that these were configured in groups with double redundancy. Two tanks beside each other share one piping system. Two of such twin tanks are next to each other with lines to their processing train. There are a total of three such groups. Damage to any one tank or group would not stop the production process. The products would be routed to another similar tank or group. But with all tanks of this one special type taken out the production chain is now interrupted.

Two processing areas were hit and show fire damage. At least the control equipment of both was likely completely destroyed:

Consultancy Rapidan Energy Group said images of the Abqaiq facility after the attack showed about five of its stabilization towers appeared to have been destroyed, and would take months to rebuild – something that could curtail output for a prolonged period.
“However Saudi Aramco keeps some redundancy in the system to maintain production during maintenance,” Rapidan added, meaning operations could return to pre-attack levels sooner.

The targeting for this attack was done with detailed knowledge of the process and its dependencies.

The north arrow in those pictures points to the left. The visible shadows confirm the direction. The holes in the tanks are on the western side. They were attacked from the west.

The hits were extremely precise. The Yemeni armed forces claimed it attacked the facility with 10 drones (or cruise missiles). But the hits on these targets look like neither. A total of 17 hits with such precise targeting lets me assume that these were some kind of drones or missiles with man-in-the-loop control. They may have been launched from within Saudi Arabia.

There is no information yet on the damage in Khurais, the second target of the attacks.

The U.S. and Israel are able to commit such attacks. Iran probably too. Yemen seems unlikely to have this capability without drawing on extensive support from elsewhere. The planing for this operation must have taken months.


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