Yemen restarts Maarib oil pipeline

Under attack: A burnt out car seen nearby May's attack on a gas pipeline in Yemen's Shabwa region

Yemen's Maarib oil pipeline has resumed operations after a nine-month halt due to sabotage which left the poorest Arab country dependent on fuel donations.

Repairs to the country's main oil pipeline have been completed and crude started flowing again on Sunday night, the operator said on Tuesday, Reuters reported.

"We are trying to fill the pipeline right now. We still have two to three more hours to start pumping to the floating vessel," the SAFER official said.

Oil from the Marib oilfield is pumped to a terminal on the coast and then carried by sub-sea pipeline to a large oil tanker, which has been converted into a floating oil storage and loading facility.

Before being shut due to attacks by tribesmen in 2011, the Maarib pipeline carried around 110,000 barrels per day of sweet, light crude to the Ras Isa export terminal on the Red Sea coast, operated by the SAFER Exploration & Production Operations Company.

Resumption of exports from Ras Isa could take nearly two weeks.

"It will probably take around 12-13 days before we have enough volume in the floating vessel in order to make the first liftings," an official at the operating company said.

Several attacks on the pipeline last year stopped crude flows to the country's main refinery in Aden, leaving it dependant on fuel donations from its wealthy northern neighbour Saudi Arabia.

The pipeline was attacked and repaired in early 2011 but was forced to shut again last October and there has been no crude flow in the pipeline since, until this week.

Ongoing instability in the country, with simmering tension between Islamic militants or disgruntled tribesmen and the government continuing, leaves oil and gas pipelines in the country vulnerable to further attacks.

Maplecroft Middle East analyst Torbjorn Soltvedt told Upstream earlier this year that “given Yemen’s ongoing political transition, militants are likely to continue to target energy infrastructure to maintain pressure on Yemeni authorities”.

"I wonder when the next attack will be; today or tomorrow," a Western shipping source based in Yemen told Reuters on Tuesday.

"I am still doubtful it will remain operational long enough for the vessel to fill," he added.

Yemen's oil and gas pipelines have been repeatedly attacked by Islamist militants and disgruntled tribesmen since anti-government protests created a power vacuum in 2011, disrupting exports from the small producer.

Earlier this month, Yemen's oil minister said the country would resume oil exports from Maarib this week, estimating the lengthy outage had cost the impoverished country up to $15 million a day in lost revenues.

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