Al Arabiya television in the Middle East has reported that an explosion was heard at Saudi Arabia's key Abqaiq oil facility in the Kingdom's eastern oil producing province on Friday.
|Saudi Aramco's first gas processing plant --- Abqaiq (Photo by S.M. Amin/Saudi Aramco/PADIA)|
The Dubai-based station reported witnesses as saying that shooting was heard in the area, also known locally as Baqiq and site of one of Saudi Arabi's largest oilfields.
CNN is reporting that Saudi security forces have thwarted an attempted suicide attack at the oil processing facility.
The TV channel says that three cars carrying an unknown number of would-be suicide bombers fired on security guards at the outer perimeter of the Abqaiq plant, killing three guards and wounding 10 others.
Saudi emergency forces at a second security perimeter fired on the vehicles, causing two cars to detonate before they could enter the facility, , Saudi security consultant Nawaf Obaid told said.
It was not clear what happened to the third car, although officials said none of the cars entered the facility.
All of the would-be attackers were killed, according to Obaid and a senior Saudi security official.
Abqaiq, which is located at the southern end of the Abqaiq oil field about 25 miles west of the Arabian Gulf, is an oil town, lying on the main road from Riyadh to Dhahran. The population is largely composed of those working for the Saudi State oil company Saudi Aramco.
Following the discovery of the oil field in 1940, the population of Abqaiq grew rapidly. In 1995, the population was around 10,000.
A USA Today report says that Matthew Simmons, a Houston-based investment banker who specializes in oil and gas ventures, said that he was alarmed by the light security at Saudi Arabia's massive Abqaiq oil processing plant.
To cripple the Saudi oil network, "All you'd need to do would be to get a big fire raging at Abqaiq," Simmons says. "It's got a chain-link fence around it. Chain-link fences aren't exactly the Maginot Line."
Saudi Arabia has over 260 billion barrels of proven oil reserves, a quarter of the world's total.
The price of light crude for April delivery, on the New York Mercantile Exchange has risen to $62.07 per barrel.