Hi @MrDE and @forexforexforex!
Whilst it is true that the function of a refinery is to convert crude oil into refined products such as gasoline, aircraft fuels, diesel, heating oil, and other non-fuel products, I think this is not the case with this Abqaiq facility that has been so badly damaged.
The Abqaiq plant’s chief function is to act as a hub which collects the raw crude oil from the oil fields and processes it into a safe and stable form of crude oil for transportation by tankers. It basically removes the hydrogen sulphide and other impurities from the oil and reduces vapour pressure. But its output is not refined products, it is still crude oil.
And that is where the problem lies. The issue is the halving of Saudi Arabia’s daily output of crude oil not refined products. A sudden loss of crude oil suppllies representing 5%of the global daily demand is a huge problem - on a par with the Arab oil embargo in 1973 and Iraq’s invasion of Kuwait in 1990.
Apparently the infrastructure in Abqaiq is both large and uniquely designed for its purposes. The estimates for its repair are now stretching out into weeks and maybe months - and there is the ongoing fear of further actions of a similar kind. This is not a little limpet mine on the side of a tanker - this is an act on a scale usually associated with a large regional, or even global, war.
So the issue is indeed about crude oil supply/demand. And whilst demands can be met in the short term from global land and floating storage and the release of strategic reserves, an actual increase in daily supply on this scale is not so easy.
Its quite ironic that prices have now surged and somewhat stabilized for the time being at levels that SA would have otherwise been very happy about - but not at the cost of half of its production! But I can imagine that the other producer countries are trying to hide their smiles as their budget deficits suddenly are looking much rosier!
Interestingly, the US has come a long way in becoming energy self-sufficient and I doubt this act will have much impact domestically there, since the US is already becoming a net exporter of some grades of crude oil. But the US refineries also need other grades that are not available domestically but I don’t think SA is a provider of those, rather it is, for example, Canada.
So I think we are going to see upward pressures on oil prices until there are signs that A) the SA supply is coming back on line, B) sufficient reserves are being released, and C) there is a reduction in the risks of further such major attacks on global oil supply infrastructure and transportation - these are three very big issues!