Saudi Aramco revealed the significant damage caused by an aerial strike on its Khurais oil field last weekend, and insisted that the site will be back to pre-attack output levels this month.
Aramco took reporters for a first look inside the facilities at Saudi Arabia’s second-biggest field, where infrastructure was scorched and pipelines ruptured by the assault on Saturday. A pile of debris -- a mess of oil melted to asphalt, twisted and charred metal grates, and pieces of fire hose -- stank of tar.
The Khurais field and processing plant resumed 30% of production within 24 hours of the strike and will produce 1.2 million barrels a day by the end of September, Fahad Al Abdulkareem, general manager for Aramco’s southern area oil operations, said at a briefing on Friday. Workers are at the site 24 hours a day to speed the repairs, according to the company.
The world’s biggest crude exporter has vowed a swift restoration of output at Khurais and the Abqaiq processing plant after the attack by drones and missiles disabled 5% of global supply. There’s concern in the market about how long it will take the kingdom to fully restore lost production as it depletes inventories to meet supply commitments and operates without its usual buffer of spare capacity.
The Khurais field has a maximum output capacity of 1.45 million barrels a day and processes all of its oil on site, according to Al Abdulkareem. The assault affected four of its crude-stabilization units -- 90-meter (300-foot) towers that remove pressure and gas from the crude. One of two towers not visible on the site visit sustained even more severe damage than those on view, he said.
Emergency crews arrived within 10 minutes of the first strike at Khurais, tackling fires as the attack continued, Al Abdulkareem said.
Aramco showed reporters pipes that had been pierced by fragments from the missiles, causing them to spew oil, feeding the fires. Workers were busy replacing segments of piping and insulation at the facilities, and conducting tests on the damaged crude-stabilization columns.
Saudi and US officials have said that the drones and missiles used to attack Abqaiq and Khurais were made by Iran, though Iran has denied involvement. The incident has ratcheted up instability in the world’s most important oil-producing region, where tensions were already high following several attacks on Saudi oil tankers and pipelines in recent months.
The Abqaiq plant, whose throughput before the attack was about 4.9 million barrels a day, is now processing about 2 million a day, Aramco Chief Executive Officer Amin Nasser said on Tuesday. A visit by reporters on Friday showed five damaged towers at the site. The facility should return to pre-attack levels by the end of September, according to Nasser.
Aramco has ramped up output at its offshore fields -- making more of its heavier crude grades available to customers -- and is also tapping oil in storage to meet export commitments. A return to the company’s full 12 million-barrel-a-day capacity is unlikely before the end of November, Prince Abdulaziz bin Salman, the energy minister, said Tuesday.