After last week’s attack on several vessels in the Bab Al Mandab, Middle East offshore oil operations again have been hit. According to Saudi Arabia’s national news agency SPA an attack on a major offshore oil field has been prevented. Saudi military sources have reported that the Al Marjan offshore oilfield was attacked by three boats “bearing red and white flags”. Warning shots have been fired, one vessel has been captured, while two others have escaped on Friday. The Saudi military reported that the captured boat "was loaded with weapons for (a) subversive purpose." No details were given by the Saudi officials on a possible group or country behind the attack.
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The continuing remarks about a ‘red and white flag’ on the boats could however be a hint to a possible Qatari involvement, as the latter’s flag holds these colors. This would mean a direct military confrontation in the offing, if proven.
However, there could also be a link with the Iranian reports on Friday that Saudi Arabia's coast guard has killed an Iranian fisherman. In April, Saudi security forces said they thwarted an attempted attack on an oil distribution center involving an unmanned boat from Yemen loaded with explosives.
Iranian sources also have stated on Friday that Saudi border guards had fired on two boats washed away by water to the area close to one of the oil platforms near the maritime border, adding that the commander of one of the two boats was killed. Related: How A $200,000 Well Could Drastically Change The Oil Industry
In April another attack was reported on Saudi oil operations. The Saudi armed forces reported that they had foiled an attempt to blow up an oil product distribution center in Jazan, a province bordering Yemen in the kingdom’s southwest. SPA stated at that time that a remote-controlled boat laden with explosives was spotted leaving a small island in Yemeni waters and was later intercepted. Saudi security forces said they would stop any attacks by Houthi rebels, who are threatening shipping routes in the Red Sea with explosive-laden boats and mines.
The last years Saudi oil and gas operations have been not only hit by direct terrorist attacks but also by major cyberattacks, such as the Shamoon attack in 2012 or in 2016, when a new variant of the virus was used. In 2012 the attack wiped the hard drives of Saudi Arabia’s state-run oil giant, Saudi Aramco.
The Marjan field is one of Saudi Arabia’s largest offshore oil fields in production at present. On 2 June British oilfield services company Amec Foster Wheeler reported that it has won a contract from Saudi Aramco to provide key offshore and onshore field work services at the Marjan oilfield near the eastern province of Saudi Arabia. The five year contract entails services including pre-front-end engineering and design (pre-FEED), FEED, and the company will be responsible for overall program management. Support services will be delivered for a further 300,000bpd oil & gas separation train, a gas processing plant, and a cogeneration facility.
When Marjan was first discovered in 1967, it contained an estimated 2.31 billion barrels of crude. It has an output of around 270,000 bopd, which the revamp could push up to 300,000 bopd. Production was also rerouted from GOSP 1 to join with that of the other two for delivery of both crude and compressed gas to the Tanajib facility onshore for processing. Before expansion, Marjan's single GOSP 1 had a maximum total production capacity of 100,000 b/d Arab Medium crude and about 175 MMcf/d gas. Almost all operations are now controlled from a fully computerized onshore control center at Tanajib.
By Cyril Widdershoven for Oilprice.com
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