Abu Dhabi and Saudi oil-security infrastructure is itself a target

Saudi Arabia announced that two pumping stations serving the pipeline system between its eastern oil province and its export terminal at Yanbu, on the western coast, had suffered a drone attack and had to be put out of service temporarily. The targets of these two attacks are particularly relevant to global oil market security as they are, in themselves, oil-export security infrastructure built by the UAE and Saudi Arabia to reduce their reliance on tanker shipping in the Persian Gulf and Strait of Hormuz.  Fujairah is an oil export terminal and bunkering centre for tanker traffic in and out of the Persian Gulf region. In the 2000s, the Abu Dhabi National Oil Company built a pipeline linking its crude oil production and treatment facilities near the Persian Gulf across the country to its eastern port of Fujairah, on the Gulf of Oman. Along with sizeable investments in oil storage and export infrastructure, this pipeline significantly reduced the UAE’s dependence on the Persian Gulf and Strait of Hormuz for its oil exports, opening an export route directly onto the Indian Ocean. It also allowed for the emergence of Fujairah as a successful bunkering services provider, competing with Singapore for Asia-bound tanker traffic. Therefore, the attack on Fujairah shows that the UAE’s investment in bypassing the Strait of Hormuz is not immune to security risks. The same is true of the reported drone attack on two pumping stations that are part of the east-to-west pipeline system across Saudi Arabia, which was claimed by Yemeni Houthi forces. This pipeline system – sometimes called Petroline – has been built and upgraded in stages, since the 1990s, to service oil refineries and an export terminal on the Red Sea port of Yanbu. Similar to the Abu Dhabi-to-Fujairah one, the Petroline pipeline reduces Saudi Arabia’s dependence on shipping via the Gulf and Hormuz for its oil exports. The attack of Tuesday 14 April does not nullify the security logic for this infrastructure, but shows that the insurance bought by Saudi Arabia against shipping disruptions in the Persian Gulf and Strait of Hormuz is itself subject to security risks.