LOS ANGELES, Feb. 11 -- Saudi Arabia's Minister of Petroleum and Mineral Resources Ali I. al-Naimi said his country has spent "substantial" amounts of money on securing its oil installations and insisted it would be "difficult, if not impossible" for terrorists to attack them.
"Even if it happens, the impact on the kingdom's production and exports will be negligible," al-Naimi told a news conference on the sidelines of a 4-day, antiterrorism conference that ended Feb. 8.
Prince Nayef Ibn Abdul Aziz Al-Saud, Saudi Minister of Interior, told reporters that, although the terror threat had decreased, attacks could not be ruled out. The government will remain on full alert "until we ensure there isn't a single terrorist left in the country," he said.
On Dec. 16, terrorist leader Osama bin Laden urged his followers in an audiotape to "go on and try to prevent (the West) from getting oil. . .Concentrate your operations on that, especially in Iraq and the [Persian] Gulf" (OGJ, Jan. 10, 2005, p. 27).
Asked whether the Saudi government pays attention to such messages, al-Naimi said, "Any statements made by leaders of terror organizations that threaten our facilities will always be taken seriously."
He added, "We have taken additional security measures. . .in the last 3-4 months to make sure that our facilities, which were already well protected, will be even more protected so that no terrorist will succeed in damaging [even] slightly our facilities."
Al-Naimi said the installations are protected by thousands of security personnel employed by oil and gas companies—state-owned Saudi Aramco has more than 7,000 security officers—as well as the government's security agencies.
The minister said that even if militants managed to breach security, the oil facilities are so spread out that the government could "react fast."
The installations comprise seven refineries, thousands of kilometers of pipelines, two terminals—one on the Red Sea and another on the Gulf—and oil and gas facilities scattered across the central and eastern provinces.
In addition, the kingdom has strategic reserves to fall back on in the event of a terror attack or an industrial disaster, al-Naimi said.
The petroleum minister said the kingdom increased its oil production last year to 11 million b/d and plans a further increase to 12.5 million b/d within the next 4 years due to projected increases in world demand for oil over the next 2 decades.
"Moreover, the kingdom has studied the possibility of raising its productive capacity to 15 million b/d if the demand for oil requires that," he said.
Separately, he said planned development in Iraq toward a 6 million b/d target over the next few years would be "positive, as there will be the demand" for the oil.