Saudi Oil Attacks: Odd Trajectory Pattern – Could It Be Something Else?

  • It is a known fact oil itself does not burn, the vapors of the oil burn.
  • The actual crude tanks were not the target during the Houthi attacks.
  • The trajectory of attacks are too sophisticated.

The US has announced plans to send forces to Saudi Arabia in the wake of attacks against the country’s oil infrastructure. Historically, before a war there is a provocation. However, looking at the attack trajectory, there are a few odd details in the scenario.

Image Source: Telethurenglish

Yemen’s Iran-backed Houthi rebels have claimed responsibility for the attacks against two oil facilities last week. The Houthis in Yemen, also known as the Houthi rebellion, are a military rebellion pitting Zaidi Shia Houthis against the Yemeni military that began in the north and has since escalated into a full-scale civil war.

Take a closer look at the scenario and the fires. It is a known fact oil itself does not burn, the vapors of the oil burn. That is why an empty gas tank can explode with a minimal spark, while a full tank of gas will not explode even if thrown into the fire. Therefore, crude oil storage tanks are specifically designed to make sure there are zero vapors, in order to reduce the risk of possible fires and explosions.

Generally storage tanks can be classified as pressurized or atmospheric storage tanks. Pressurized storage tanks are used for storing liquids that evaporate. However, atmospheric storage tanks are the ones that are best suited for storing crude oil. Atmospheric tanks are operated at or near the pressure found in the atmosphere. Atmospheric storage tanks can be further broken down into open top storage tanks, fixed roof tanks and floating roof storage tanks.

Additionally, there is no gas layer between the petrochemical product and the roof of the tank. The floating roof is made for the purpose of decreasing the vapors at the top.

In the image of the Saudi field (above) in the left top and right bottom corners are large tanks with the roof lower than the walls. They are the actual tanks storing petrochemicals. There is no damage to them. Hence, the attack was specifically carried out with all the fire safety precautions. This would preclude a fire from occurring. Therefore the actual tanks were not the target during the Houthi attacks. Why would the Houthis, backed by Iran, carry out such an attack?

Multiple theories surrounding the attacks:

  1. The Saudis insinuated the attacks themselves. It would be a highly unlikely scenario, since the result dropped the value of Aramco’s shares. Why would they do this to themselves?
  2. Iran has the technical capabilities to orchestrate such an attack. However, the Houthis easily can do it on Iran’s behalf. Also, the largest benefactor of the attacks would be Iran.
  3. Israel could have done it as a provocation, in an attempt to cool US and Saudi Arabian relations. It wouldn’t further their main ambitions or their direct needs and it would create additional complications for them, which would be unneccesary for the nation.

The goal of the attacks:

  • It is possible the goal behind the attacks might have not been to raise the price of crude in the global markets.
  • The crude itself wouldn’t be of interest. It would have been wiser to attack benzene, which is more flammable.
  • An ultimatum to the Saudis from the Houthis as far as the conflict in Yemen is concerned.
  • Iran’s desire to have the US involved in another Middle Eastern conflict that turns into war, which hurts the US economy in the long run and depletes US military sources, barely recovered from the back to back wars of the past decade.

There are a myriad of hypothetical reasons. Nevertheless, one analysis is for certain: the attack did not target the crude itself. Yet, it was carefully strategized and orchestrated with sophisticated precision.

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Christina Kitova

I spent most of my professional life in finance, insurance risk management litigation.

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