Saudi Arabia said Sunday it has stopped a major oil spill that threatened to contaminate the waters of its newly built pipeline, the first time the kingdom has shut down a major spill since a 2010 rupture that sent millions of gallons of crude into the sea.
The oil leak that has also led to the arrest of several people and blocked the entrance to the pipeline’s main artery, a major transportation artery, has also prompted the cancellation of other oil exports.
The Saudi-led government, which is under intense pressure to cut costs and cut pollution from its oil industry, said the spill in the Gulf of Aden was not as severe as initially thought, but it stopped the flow of oil from the pipeline to a storage facility in the eastern Gulf.
Saudi officials said the leak was caused by corrosion of the line that connects the Gulf to the port of Bandar Abbas, a port in Saudi Arabia that has become an oil hub.
The spill also blocked a major artery in the pipeline, according to Saudi media.
“The spill is not as big as originally thought, so the government has decided to suspend the flow,” an official at the oil ministry said.
“This will not affect the export of oil.”
The Saudi government has been under intense international pressure over its economic and social policies, particularly in the wake of a 2015 oil price collapse that wiped out billions of dollars in revenues and forced it to reduce its public spending.
In September, it shut down the country’s biggest export terminals, shutting down production and exports of the world’s most popular fuel, crude oil, and the only one to be built on the Black Sea in the past 30 years.
The closure has led to a major disruption of oil and gas supplies to Europe, which accounts for more than 90 percent of the kingdom’s revenue.
The kingdom is also under fire for its treatment of women, which has led many women to travel abroad to escape violence or economic hardship.
Saudi Arabia has faced a slew of human rights abuses, including torture, extrajudicial killings and the imprisonment of hundreds of political opponents.