Saudi Aramco showed it has made significant progress in restoring damaged oil infrastructure to normal operation just a month after a devastating aerial attack halted production, but work remains to be done, reported Bloomberg.
While one of the towers shown to reporters remained a charred wreck, Saudi Aramco insisted that the site is now able to operate at full capacity for limited periods.
Workers at the state-run oil giant worked 24 hours a day to restore output after the attacks on Khurais and the Abqaiq processing plant disabled five per cent of global supply. A trip to Khurais a week after the assault showed equipment scorched and ruptured, with several stabilisation units—90 metre towers that reduce pressure and remove gas from the crude—burnt out.
Oil prices, having surged the most on record immediately after the strikes, gave up their gains as traders turned their attention to slowing economic growth and demand concerns.
The Khurais field has a maximum output capacity of 1.45 million barrels a day. A Saudi Aramco official said that it’s now technically possible to operate the site at full capacity, having shown it can run it flat-out for about a day.
A subsequent visit to the Abqaiq plant, some 150 miles from Khurais, showed the restoration of further stabilisation towers. Five there were hit in the attack and three are now running as normal, Khaled Al Buraik, Aramco’s vice president for southern-area oil production, told reporters. It may take as long as six weeks to fully restore all the towers, a company official said.
That chimes with comments from Saudi Energy Minister Prince Abdulaziz bin Salman, who said last month that a return to the company’s full 12 million-barrel-a-day capacity is unlikely before the end of November.
Abqaiq was struck 18 times in total, with 11 hits on its giant spheroids, which separate natural gas and water from the oil. The visit to the site showed that all of the so-called three-phase spheroids have been repaired. According to Saudi Aramco, primary-separation spheroids are also back to normal, though the affected tanks are still partly shrouded in scaffolding, which could indicate some repairs continue.