Iran dismisses US allegation it was behind Saudi Arabia oil attacks

Smoke from a fire at the Abqaiq oil processing facility Credit: APTN

Iran has denied it was involved in Yemen rebel drone attacks targeting the world’s biggest oil processing facility and an oil field in Saudi Arabia.

The denial came hours after America’s top diplomat alleged Tehran was behind the “unprecedented attack on the world’s energy supply” - though he offered no evidence.

Smoke from a fire at the Abqaiq oil processing facility. Credit: Al-Arabiya via AP

The attacks, claimed by Yemen’s Houthi rebels, resulted in “the temporary suspension of production operations” at the Abqaiq processing facility and the Khurais oil field, Riyadh said.

That led to the interruption of an estimated 5.7 million barrels in crude supplies, authorities said while pledging the kingdom’s stockpiles would make up the difference.

A satellite image shows thick black smoke rising from Saudi Aramco’s Abqaiq oil processing facility in Buqyaq Credit: Planet Labs Inc via AP

While markets remain closed on Sunday, the attack could shock world energy prices.

They also increased overall tensions in the region amid an escalating crisis between the US and Iran over Tehran’s unravelling nuclear deal with world powers.

Late on Saturday, US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo directly blamed Iran for the attack on Twitter, without offering evidence to support his claim.

The US, Western nations, their Gulf Arab allies and UN experts say Iran supplies the Houthis with weapons and drones — something Tehran denies.

Iranian Foreign Ministry spokesman Abbas Mousavi dismissed Mr Pompeo’s remarks as “blind and futile comments”.

“The Americans adopted the ‘maximum pressure’ policy against Iran, which, due to its failure, is leaning towards ‘maximum lies’,” Mr Mousavi said in a statement.

First word of Saturday’s assault came in online videos of giant fires at the Abqaiq facility, some 205 miles north east of the Saudi capital, Riyadh.

Machine-gun fire could be heard in several clips alongside the day’s first Muslim call to prayers, suggesting security forces tried to bring down the drones just before dawn.

In daylight, Saudi state television aired a segment with its local correspondent near a police checkpoint, a thick plume of smoke visible behind him.

A satellite image shows fires following the attacks. Credit: NASA/AP

President Donald Trump called Saudi Arabia’s Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman to offer his support for the kingdom’s defence, the White House said.

The crown prince assured President Trump that Saudi Arabia is “willing and able to confront and deal with this terrorist aggression”, according to a news release from the Saudi Embassy in Washington.

Saudi Aramco describes its Abqaiq oil processing facility in Buqyaq as “the largest crude oil stabilisation plant in the world”.

The facility processes sour crude oil into sweet crude, then transports it onto transshipment points on the Persian Gulf and the Red Sea or to refineries for local production.

Estimates suggest it can process up to seven million barrels of crude oil a day. By comparison, Saudi Arabia produced 9.65 million barrels of crude oil a day in July.

The Khurais oil field is believed to produce over one million barrels of crude oil a day. It has estimated reserves of over 20 billion barrels of oil, according to Aramco.