One of Saudi Arabia's greatest nightmares came true on September 14, after an attack on facilities belonging to Saudi oil giant Aramco.

The attack halted work at the Saudi Abqaiq oil complex, the country's main oil and gas processing facility. This important industrial facility processes 5.7 million barrels of crude oil on a daily basis.

Although Saudi officials initially sought to reassure oil and natural gas markets that they could recover some production, Riyadh said on September 16 it needed weeks or months to repair the damage to the oil complex.

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Global Markets
The analysis adds that the impact on global oil markets will be significant, but it can be controlled.

The analysis shows that the attack raises many important questions regarding the future of production in the Middle East and oil policy in Saudi Arabia, in addition to its impact on oil markets.

The attack shows a clear indication to the United States that no matter how much domestic production increases, the Middle East's impact on energy supplies cannot be ignored.

Abqaiq complex
While Saudi Arabia owns several of these oil and natural gas complexes, the Abqaiq complex remains home to the world's largest crude oil processing plant.

Abqaiq's crude oil stabilization towers appear to have been specifically targeted, along with natural gas storage tanks there, where satellite images show significant damage in many towers, which will require extensive repairs or rebuilding, a process that could last months.

Just as it is not clear how long these reforms will take, it is also unclear to what extent Saudi Arabia can use other oil complexes to make up for global capacity shortfalls.

The site says there is enough oil available to the global market to offset the decline in Saudi production for a few months, but Riyadh will not be able to continue to compensate for this difference if the damage in Abqaiq takes longer to repair, or if other Saudi processing facilities are attacked It pushes its oil exports to extremely low levels for a long time.

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OPEC Alliance
Perhaps more importantly for Saudi Arabia, if prices continue to rise, it could break the current OPEC alliance, Stratfor says.

Russia, Iraq, Algeria, Angola and many oil producers would be less willing to keep their cuts under the current production agreement if oil prices rise dramatically at the expense of Saudi Arabia.

Once the alliance collapses, he said, it may be difficult for Saudi Arabia to assemble it once production is back to full capacity, and instead, it may have to bear the burden of maintaining prices alongside its GCC allies.

Aramco IPO

Stratfor's analysis also suggests that the attack caused a stir in Saudi Arabia's plans to launch Aramco's IPO.

In light of this damage, news has leaked that Saudi Arabia is considering postponing the IPO and that there is little chance of going ahead with the IPO until all its infrastructure is repaired.

But even after the material damage has been repaired, the damage to NOC's reputation will continue, amid investor anxiety and fear of further new attacks.