Saudi Aramco says domestic supplies unaffected by attack on Jeddah plant

JEDDAH (Reuters) - Saudi Aramco said on Tuesday its domestic fuel supplies had not been affected by an attack the previous day by Yemen’s Houthi group on a petroleum products distribution plant in Jeddah, with operations resuming three hours after the event.

The Iran-aligned Houthi forces said on Monday they had fired a missile at and struck Aramco’s North Jeddah Bulk Plant, an attack later confirmed by Saudi authorities.

Aramco’s oil production and export facilities are mostly in Saudi Arabia’s Eastern Province, more than 1,000 km (620) from Jeddah.

Saudi Arabia wrote to the U.N. Security Council late on Monday to tell the 15-member body “it has been identified that the Houthis militia backed by Iran is responsible for the terrorist attack.” It vowed to “spare no efforts” to protect its territory and citizens.

“We urge the Security Council to shoulder its responsibility and to stop the threat of this militia to the global energy security, the U.N. political process in Yemen and to regional security,” Saudi U.N. Ambassador Abdallah Al-Mouallimi wrote in the letter, seen by Reuters.

Abdullah al-Ghamdi, manager of the North Jeddah plant, told journalists on a tour that one of the 13 tanks used for diesel oil, gasoline and jet fuel at the facility is currently out of action.

The company was still assessing the scale and cost of the damage from the attack, which happened at 3:50 am Saudi time on Monday, he said.

A view shows the damage at a Saudi Aramco oil company distribution station that Yemeni Houthis say they attacked, in the city of Jeddah, Saudi Arabia, November 24, 2020. REUTERS/Nael Shyoukhi

He described the site as a “critical facility” with total storage capacity of 5.2 million barrels. It can distribute more than 120,000 barrels of products per day domestically to the western Saudi regions of Jeddah, Mecca and al-Baha.

“Within a minute (of the attack) the response team started the firefighting system which is fixed to the tank itself. A minute or two later the fire station crew arrived at the scene,” Ghamdi said.

A fire caused by the attack was extinguished in around 40 minutes with no casualties, he said.

“It was a big fire, a big explosion, but was dealt with swiftly,” Ghamdi said.

The projectile struck the storage tank, which has a maximum capacity of 500,000 barrels, from the top, causing “major damage” to its roof, with a hole around 2 metres square, the official said.

Black marks and some damage around its top rim were visible. Charred debris, which Aramco said would be examined as part of the investigation, had been laid out on the ground.

Monday’s attack comes less than two weeks after a fire near a floating platform belonging to the Jazan oil products terminal was contained with no injuries.

That fire was the result of another attempted Houthi attack, in which a Saudi-led coalition fighting the Houthis in Yemen intercepted and destroyed two explosive-laden boats in the southern Red Sea.

Yemen has been mired in conflict since the coalition intervened in March 2015 to restore the Yemeni government ousted from power in the capital Sanaa by the Houthis.

Houthi forces have carried out many missile and drone strikes on civilian airports and oil infrastructure in Saudi Arabia, including on the capital Riyadh.

The coalition says it intercepts many attacks, and has responded with air strikes on Houthi-held territory.

Reporting by Marwa Rashad in Jeddah; Additional reporting by Michelle Nichols in New York; Writing by Lisa Barrington; Editing by Jason Neely, Kirsten Donovan and Jan Harvey