Total's Yemen LNG Targeted in Rocket Attack

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Rockets were launched against Total's mothballed Yemen LNG facility on Monday, sources confirmed to Energy Intelligence. Details were sketchy, but nobody was killed and there was no damage, with most of the rockets landing in the sea, one source said. Total halted production and evacuated personnel from the 6.7 million ton per year Yemen LNG plant in Balhaf in 2015. Nevertheless, the attack follows a recent series of strikes against Mideast oil targets that have been linked to the six-year-old war in Yemen, putting a large portion of the region, from Saudi Arabia to Oman, on heightened alert. Most of these attacks have not caused loss of life or major damage, but the proliferation of incidents -- especially those targeting Saudi Arabia -- gives cause for concern. It's worth remembering that the devastating September 2019 attack on Saudi Aramco's huge Abqaiq oil processing center followed months of relatively small incidents (IOD Sep.17'19). Yemen's long-running war has recently swung decisively in the favor of the country's Houthi rebels, with the strategic city of Marib poised to fall unless Saudi Arabia ramps up military aid, sources say (see map). If that were to happen, the Houthis could take over Yemen's key energy assets, including the Safer oil refinery; Block 18, which supplied gas to Yemen LNG; and OMV's Block S-2, which exports oil via the port of Bir Ali/Rudom, sources say, They add that the Houthis are unlikely to stop at Marib province, but will either push south toward Yemen LNG or east toward the Omani border, taking over oil fields in the province of Hadramawt (EC Dec.11’20). Most of the recent attacks on Mideast oil targets have been linked to the war between the Houthis -- who ousted the government of President Abed Rabbu Mansour Hadi in 2015 -- and Saudi Arabia. The Houthis are supported by Iran, while Saudi Arabia has led a coalition fighting to restore the Hadi government. However, in contrast to most of the recent incidents, the rocket attack on the Yemen LNG site and a previously unpublicized Oct. 3 attack on another tanker, the Syra, while moored at the port of Bir Ali/Rudom, may well have been committed by Islamist groups or southern separatists in Yemen, a security source notes. An Oct. 25 explosion on the pipeline connecting Yemen's Block 4 to Bir Ali/Rudom, could also have been the work of militants linked to the separatist Southern Transitional Council (STC), the security source adds. Damage to the Syra was not serious and it was able to discharge its cargo at Abu Dhabi's Ruwais refinery. Export operations from Bir Ali/Rudom continued into November, according to data intelligence firm, Kpler. Among other recent attacks against Mideast oil targets, a tanker was hit on Monday -- probably by a mine -- while discharging gasoline in the Saudi port of Jeddah (IOD Dec.14’20). And on Nov. 24, a tanker chartered by Glencore, the Agrari, was hit by an apparent mine blast off the Saudi Red Sea port of Shuqaiq (IOD Nov.25’20). Multiple sources tell Energy Intelligence that parts of the Yemen LNG facility have been converted to a base for special forces from the United Arab Emirates. There have been reports that a prison and interrogation center were set up, and there have been allegations that incidents of torture have occurred. It's unclear when the UAE took over the site, but one source says US special forces and UK troops have also used it extensively. Total said it was told that parts of the facility were requisitioned in April 2017. Rafiq Latta, Nicosia (click for larger version)

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