Acts of sabotage against oil and gas pipelines in Yemen are an increasing source of concern to the country's national reconciliation government, which is facing numerous economic and political challenges.
Since the outbreak of the political crisis in 2011, attacks on oil and gas pipelines in the Marib and Shabwa provinces have come in quick succession. Many of the attacks were blamed on al-Qaeda and tribal elements active in the area.
The most recent of these, a February 9th bombing that targeted the pipeline in the al-Obaida area in Marib, came less than 24 hours after another attack on the same pipeline. It was the third such incident since the beginning of the year.
The main liquefied natural gas pipeline was bombed in October, and in November the oil pipeline in Marib came under three attacks that led to a stoppage of oil pumping.
"The ministry will seek to prosecute the oil and gas pipeline saboteurs taking into account the large losses incurred by Yemen from these acts of sabotage," Ministry of Oil and Minerals spokesman Aref Muharram told Al-Shorfa.
Sheikh Nasser al-Aaji, Marib's deputy governor, said "tribal subversive elements" were behind the February pipeline attack in al-Obaida, adding that previous government negotiations with saboteurs emboldened these elements to repeat their actions.
In May 2012, al-Qaeda claimed responsibility for an attack on installations carrying gas from the Shabwa province to the Balhaf terminal in the Gulf of Aden. The saboteurs planted an improvised explosive device under the pipeline, causing a fire and halting the flow of gas.
The SAFER Oil Exploration and Production Company in Yemen estimated its daily losses from the oil pumping stoppage at 100,000 barrels, resulting in a loss of $310 million per month.
On February 7th, the Shabwa province local authority signed an agreement with Yemen Liquefied Natural Gas whereby the latter will compensate homeowners affected by the gas pipeline bombing in Jardan directorate in December, according to Yemen's official news agency, Saba.
Twelve people will receive a total of 27.2 million riyals ($127,000), the news agency said.
In the financial statement of its 2013 budget, the reconciliation government indicated that Yemen incurred losses from acts of sabotage totalling $500 million in 2012, with daily losses of $15 million.
"The stoppage of oil pumping, even of oil used for domestic market consumption only, contributes to lower revenues and a bigger deficit, which amounted to more than 600 billion riyals ($2.8 million) in the 2013 budget," deputy minister of planning and international co-operation for the studies and economic outlook sector Mohammed al-Haweri told Al-Shorfa.
This will negatively affect the value of the national currency, the real rate of per capita income and the economic and investment environment in the country, in addition to discouraging foreign investors from investing in Yemen's oil and gas sectors, al-Haweri said.
Mustafa Nasr, head of the Studies and Economic Media Centre, said the oil pumping stoppage is a "disaster" for Yemen, both politically and economically.
"Oil is the main pillar and engine of the economy as it generates about $3 billion a year for the state," he said. "So, any act of sabotage cuts into these revenues, in addition to the losses incurred by oil companies operating [in Yemen], the cost of repairing those pipelines and higher insurance premiums on oil and gas installations."
On the political level, oil plays a pivotal role in the political process, Nasr said. It helps secure a peaceful transition of political power, as well as the necessary funding for the implementation of the political, economic and security aspects of the Gulf initiative.
Oil represents 70% of state revenues and accounts for 85% to 95% of Yemen's exports, "and it is thus the pillar of the economy," Taha al-Faseel, professor of economics at Sanaa University, told Al-Shorfa.
Bombings that disrupt pipelines have an adverse effect on the balance of payments and Yemen's hard currency income, resulting in imbalances in government spending and setbacks in the efforts to fight poverty and unemployment, al-Faseel said.