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Refinery Attacks Affect Global Oil Production

Drone strikes on two major Saudi oil refineries this weekend shut off more than half of Saudi Arabia’s daily exports, or about 5 percent of the world’s crude oil production, according to NPR. The attack triggered a 20 percent spike in the cost of oil before settling at 10 percent higher than before the attack.

The increase marks the largest daily surge in crude oil prices in years, and experts estimate it could take weeks before the kingdom is able to restore full production at the facilities, The Telegraph reports.

The attack affected the production of 5.7 million barrels of crude oil—the largest such disruption on records, according to the Paris-based International Energy Agency.

Houthi rebels in Yemen have claimed responsibility for the attacks, although some U.S. officials seem skeptical and have cast suspicion toward Iran instead. A Houthi spokesman, Yahya Saree, told a rebel-backed TV station that the attacks were carried out by 10 drones and in “cooperation with the honorable people inside the [Saudi] kingdom,” suggesting possible involvement of dissidents within Saudi Arabia, Al Jazeera reports.

In a tweet on Saturday, U.S. Ambassador to Saudi Arabia John Abizaid said the attacks were “strongly” condemned by Washington. British Foreign Secretary Domenic Raab called the attack “a wanton violation of international law” that “has implications for global oil markets and supply.” 

Oil pipelines and infrastructure has been a target of attacks for decades, although some experts are concerned that safety standards are not keeping up with threats, especially as computer systems used to operate the pipeline system is vulnerable to outside manipulation. Read more about global pipeline security in Security Management's October 2019 National Security department.