Friday, February 24, 2006

Abqaiq Attack Fails – And You Might Not Realize How Lucky We Are

Here is the key phrase: “The huge Abqaiq processing facility near the Gulf coast handles around two-thirds of the country's oil output”. Think about that. One massive refinery handling this much of Saudi Arabia’s output?
If that had been knocked out for any length of time, we would feel it badly. Just the thought of it, affected the markets.
Clearly, the armed guards that fired on the cars blowing them up knew what was at stake here.
There were three towns in my childhood: Dhahran, the administrative center where I was born, Ras Tanura, the massive port on the Persian Gulf, and Abqaiq. These are the towns I played Little League baseball in. These are the towns where my earliest rock bands played dances.
We used to stay up all night when we played those parties, just for the thrill of it. Sometimes we would walk out in the desert near Abqaiq and check out the flares. Back then, the company called Aramco was burning a lot of natural gas. Oil was so plentiful why bother with anything else? The local paper was even called the “Sun and Flare.” You would see these pipes ending and you could tell a massive flow of natural gas was shooting out, but the huge flame wouldn’t start for something like 30 yards from the ends of the pipe. You could see the flares on the horizon for 50 miles. Extremely dramatic. Losing this facility would also be extremely dramatic. I don’t know if they have other facilities that could pick up the slack but I doubt it. If we lost two thirds of the daily oil supply from Saudi Arabia that could be enough to cause a world-wide depression, and accelerate the mad battle over the remaining oil supplies even more. This attack was a close call, and we're damn lucky it didn't work. If you want to understand the world, follow the oil.


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