Repairs to damaged Saudi oil processing plant could take up to four weeks

Author: Will Beacham

2019/09/17

BARCELONA (ICIS)--The attack on Saudi Arabia’s Abqaiq crude oil processing plant was so effective it is likely to take between two to four weeks to repair, according to new analysis by ICIS.

The drone attacks on 14 September damaged the Abqaiq and Khurais crude oil processing installations which supply feedstocks to Saudi Arabia’s three main petrochemical sites.

One photo released by the US government and DigitalGlobal appears to show a well-planned attack on all of the pressurised storage tanks at the Abqaiq processing plant.

According to Michael Connolly, ICIS senior consultant for global refining, this carefully-planned attack is likely to put the entire processing plant out of operation for several weeks.

“These sites have multiple processing chains, so to damage a key piece of equipment in every single one of them will maximise the effect of their fire power,” said Connolly.

They attacked pressurised storage tanks for storing natural gas liquids (NGLs), which are made of specialised curved steel, making them harder to repair.

“It’s difficult to get hold of these materials so I would estimate they would take two to four weeks to repair as these are not off the shelf repairs,” he said.

"As an engineer, I can see it is going to be quite a challenge to repair these tanks quickly. Whoever planned these attacks was someone with knowledge of how these installations work.”

There were additional attacks to stabilization columns, although there appear to be more undamaged units in this section of the plant.

Chemical prices are already rising in the aftermath of the attacks which potentially disrupted feedstock supplies to sites with around 10% of global ethylene capacity.

By Tuesday, prices spiked for Asia naphthamethyl ethyl ketone (MEK) , Asia methanol , and China polyethylene (PE) amid worries about supply disruption from the Middle East.

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