Oil pipeline bombings add to Yemen's suffering

A column of black smoke billows from an oil pipeline that runs east of Marib that was blown up in June of 2010. [Stringer/AFP]

A column of black smoke billows from an oil pipeline that runs east of Marib that was blown up in June of 2010. [Stringer/AFP]

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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.

Yemen economy suffers great losses

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.

Attacks a 'disaster' for Yemen

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.

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    مسعد سليمان

    2013-3-1

    Yemen will continue its procession towards progress, and the people, who succeeded in making a revolution in the country, can save the country from the terrorists. This is a difficult responsibility of course, because attacking the oil pipelines is a serious economic and security problem. We need some persistence and the state must join hands and stop this disunity. When this happens, they will be able to stand in the face of anyone who rejects to serve the legitimacy or wants to destroy security and stability in Yemen.

  • منصور حسن

    2013-2-27

    No one can say that the Yemenis cannot live the way they want, but there are hidden elements that will not allow for that to happen and that are seeking to destroy their future. Then they must be punished, because what is happening in terms of the oil pipelines in Yemen being blown up means that the only natural resource that the Yemenis are depending on is threatened. There has to be a stop to this. The Yemeni government has to get hold of everyone who was behind these crimes, even if they only gave an opinion, because what they don't know is that the Yemeni economy is in trouble, so when they commit these crimes, they should know that they are the first people who will be affected.

  • محمود الشمرى

    2013-2-27

    Whenever we say that Yemen is about to start a new page away from the problems it faces in terms of terrorism, we find that terrorism is there again. O, there is no power but from God. Terrorists push Yemen and target its main resources, the oil, which has remained a target in Yemen. This is not the first time that Yemen has suffered blows like these; actually, it has happened many times. The problem is that the Yemeni government is really unable to protect the pipelines properly, and whatever they say, we can see the results clearly, as there is no security. If there were security, we would have heard about some clashes or something. There really should be some security services there to secure the oil pipelines. The greatest problem would be if the tribes were the ones that bombed the oil pipelines. This would be a real national disaster, if the sons of the country were to destroy their own country in Yemen. The words of the official spokesman for the Ministry of Oil are really funny. Whom are you going to put on trial, while you do not even know who did it and you haven’t even arrested them?

  • نبيلة عبد العال

    2013-2-26

    Yemen, God willing, will resume its progress and the people who could make the revolution in the country can also rid it of terrorists. It is difficult, of course, and the pipelines are a big problem and an economic and security problem. But patience, the country must unite and join to be hand in hand and ignore the division and separation, and then they will be able to face anyone that breaks the law or security or safety from those terrorists who live in Yemen.

  • معوض إسماعيل

    2013-2-26

    When Yemen gets rid of terrorism and the state declares it officially that it has become free from any terrorist elements, then it will be possible to declare Yemen is about to enter history and record for itself with golden letters that it is a prestigious responsible international country and that its people can be one of the great peoples in the world because of its prosperity and welfare; but under this terrorism and continuous incidents of explosions that target oil pipelines which threatens life in Yemen; Yemen will have many economic problems, so if conditions continue like this and terrorism and tribes continue causing damage to pipelines, it will be openly declared that Yemen is dying really, but it happens once or twice that can be treated, but to be so permanent and successive along with internal strikes and low economic conditions, all this will lead to undesired conclusions at all. We ask God of the great throne to help Yemen and protect its land and keep it stable and secure!

  • حامد الشبراوى

    2013-2-25

    There is no doubt that Yemen suffers much because of the crises that eventually would destroy the economy of Yemen. It is known that the Yemeni people have all the means to reach the youth and help fix the affairs of Yemen. However, what happened was not expected because the crisis of blowing up the oil pipelines were everywhere in all the Yemeni provinces, despite the fact that the oil and gas are among the basic needs of the Yemenis and a major factor in the economic development. We want the Yemeni government to thwart any new attempt to blow up the oil pipelines in Yemen because the Yemenis apparently need stability and security. However, these acts threaten their security despite of the success of the Yemeni police to stop some of these attempts. The painful reality in Yemen forces the people to endure these unjustified criminal acts.

  • تامر بدر

    2013-2-24

    Indeed, the situation is getting more difficult in Yemen after the rampancy of the similar attacks on the oil pipelines, which negatively affects the state politically and causes a sense of insecurity. There is a feeling that the current government cannot handle the security issues in Yemen. Hence, there is a massive anger among all people from this government, which is unable to secure the country against the terrorist danger or the acts of the opposing tribes. These events also affect the economic situation catastrophically. It is enough that the state tries to make progress helplessly because it simply cannot secure a pipeline that exports oil or feeds a certain region.

  • فيكتور سلامة

    2013-2-24

    Regardless of the events on the ground, the Yemeni Government officials must bear in mind that they are responsible for the declining national economy. Indeed, the competent authorities in this country have failed to track down the terrorists who were involved in the bombing of the oil pipelines. Of course, the oil industry is vital for the economy of this country. On the other hand, this oil production pipelines link the Yemeni State to the other Arab countries. Thus, the abuse of the oil pipelines would affect the life of all Yemen citizens seriously. For this reason, the competent authorities must strive to maintain the oil pipelines.

  • كرم جابر

    2013-2-23

    No one can deny that oil is very important on the local level in Yemen. Hence, I think that the situation cannot endure more bombings or attacks against the oil and gas pipelines. I think that the solution to this problem is in the hands of the Yemeni government, because it is the only one that can fix the affairs of Yemen, whose economy will certainly be affected directly. A large group of the Yemeni people lives on their work at the oil companies and the presence of the workers there means that they must be secured and provided with all needs. The Yemeni government must react strongly to deter those criminals who commit these criminal accidents and blow up the oil pipelines. I demand the Yemeni officials and police officers to intensify their efforts to reach those who committed these crimes to arrest them. We need a new law allowing the execution of those criminals because they severe to die as they stole the happiness of the Yemenis and deprived them of the stability.

  • ابورعدالزايدي

    2013-2-21

    They deserve this. The state is supposed to find solutions to such cases.