Saudi attacks send oil prices soaring

5:09 a.m. ET, September 16, 2019

Oil prices trading at their highest levels since May

The attacks on key oil facilities in Saudi Arabia have disrupted about half of the kingdom's oil capacity, or 5% of the daily global oil supply.

That means 5.7 million barrels a day of crude oil and gas production have been affected, according to Saudi Energy Minister Prince Abdulaziz bin Salman.

Now oil prices are trading at their highest levels since May.

A haze of smoke is seen from the attacked oil plant in Saudi Arabia.
A haze of smoke is seen from the attacked oil plant in Saudi Arabia.

US oil futures were trading at more than $61 a barrel during Asia hours -- a spike of nearly 10%. Earlier, the price jumped as much as 15%. Futures of Brent crude, the global benchmark, traded at nearly $68 per barrel, an 11% increase.

Gasoline futures, meanwhile, were up about 9%.

"This is a big deal," said Tom Kloza, chief oil analyst for the Oil Price Information Service. "It is the biggest shock to the oil markets since [Hurricane] Katrina. And like Katrina it will likely haunt us for months, at least weeks."
5:07 a.m. ET, September 16, 2019

Attack is a game-changer in Gulf confrontation

The attack on the world's largest oil processing plant early Saturday morning is a dramatic escalation in the confrontation between Iran and Saudi Arabia -- even if the Iranians didn't fire the drones or missiles responsible.

Several projectiles struck the Abqaiq plant, starting a series of fires that quickly took out nearly half Saudi's oil production -- 5% of the global daily output -- and sparking fears about the security of the world's oil supplies.

It's unclear when Abqaiq, which is operated by Saudi giant Aramco, will be fully operational again.

A satellite image taken Saturday, September 14, 2019, shows thick black smoke rising from the Abqaiq oil processing facility in Saudi Arabia.
A satellite image taken Saturday, September 14, 2019, shows thick black smoke rising from the Abqaiq oil processing facility in Saudi Arabia.

Houthi rebels in Yemen claimed the attack, saying that 10 drones had targeted Abqaiq, as well as the Khurais oilfield. But attacks of this scale and accuracy would represent a sudden and remarkable increase in Houthi capabilities, and neither the United States nor Saudi Arabia is buying the claim.

The United States swiftly discounted the Houthi claim. Late Saturday, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo tweeted: "Iran has now launched an unprecedented attack on the world's energy supply." And he added: "There is no evidence the attacks came from Yemen."

In response Iranian Foreign Minister Javad Zarif accused Pompeo of engaging in deception. He wrote on Twitter: "Having failed at 'max pressure', @SecPompeo's turning to 'max deceit' US & its clients are stuck in Yemen because of illusion that weapon superiority will lead to military victory. Blaming Iran won't end disaster."

The big question now, is where did this attack originate and who was behind it?

Read more of this analysis here.

5:07 a.m. ET, September 16, 2019

President Trump says US is "locked and loaded" following oil processing plant attack

President Donald Trump on Sunday evening tweeted that the US has "reason to believe that we know" who is responsible for an attack on a Saudi Arabian oil field, adding that the country is "locked and loaded depending on verification" following the crippling strike.

Trump's tweet, which appeared to raise the specter of a US military response, served to ratchet up tensions in a region already on edge after Saturday's audacious attack on the Saudi oil field.

Read more here.