Saddam Hussein's threat to destroy Middle Eastern oil fields is mostly bluster, although Iraqi saboteurs or a lucky missile strike could cause some disruption of oil production in Saudi Arabia, oil experts and security consultants said yesterday.

Saudi Arabia's refineries, pumping stations and loading terminals are highly visible, stationary targets, but they are heavily guarded and mostly well beyond the range of Iraqi artillery, the experts said.

Detonation of explosive charges Iraq has reportedly attached to wellheads in occupied Kuwait could put those fields out of commission for months or even years, they said, but the vast pools of oil below would remain intact.

In Saudi Arabia, some wells, pipelines and refineries might be vulnerable to satchel charges or arson, they said, but there is little threat to the reservoirs of oil below the sand.

Experts were unanimous in saying there is no possibility of a subterranean inferno that would destroy the region's vast reserves.

"All this talk about destroying oil fields -- you can't, you can only destroy facilities," said Thomas Gochenauer, a consultant with Petroleum Finance Co. of Washington and a former executive of Kuwait's state-owned oil company. "You would have to send high-explosive charges down into the reservoir. Grenades won't do it. You can pour concrete down the wells, but not in two hours."

"They can blow up the wellheads. We've had that happen, but they always burn on top," said Red Adair, the legendary Houston-based oilwell firefighter.

Below ground, he said, lack of oxygen keeps well fires from spreading through a field.

Wellhead and refinery fires and the toxic hydrogen sulfide gas they emit can be controlled if the necessary equipment is available, Adair said.

Much of the equipment for use in the Persian Gulf fields was stored in Kuwait, he said, and "we have been talking to people" about replacements. He refused to go into details.

During its eight-year war with Iran, Iraq tried repeatedly but unsuccessfully to destroy Iran's main oil-loading terminal at Kharg Island.

Edward V. Badolato, an Arabic-speaking ex-Marine with extensive Middle East experience who runs a private energy security firm in Fairfax, Va., said yesterday that "one of the things Saddam learned is that you can't do this with pinpoint bombing and rockets."

But "one squad of saboteurs" could cause "tremendous damage" throughout Saudi Arabia's Eastern Province, he said, disrupting not just oil exports but electricity and water desalinization plants, which are powered by natural gas collected during the production of crude oil.

"Trying to protect all of them is a real job," he said.

A former security official for Saudi Aramco, the state-owned oil company, said "infiltration {of saboteurs} could be a serious problem."

The former official, who did not wish to be identified, said Saudi Aramco and the Saudi armed forces patrol the oil installations from helicopters and on the ground, and have a network of civilians -- including Bedouin shepherds -- "keeping an eye on things," but security officials "probably haven't done as much as they should."

The Saudis know from hard experience that a fire or explosion in one facility can ripple through their production and delivery network and set off panic in world oil markets.

In 1977, a fire at their Abqaiq station shut off half their oil exports for three days.

It sprayed blazing oil on pumps, pipes and separators, destroyed an entire pumping station, melted hundreds of yards of pipelines and put two oil-gas separators out of commission. But engineers built temporary pipeline bypasses and restored most of the oil flow within 48 hours.

Sidney Bowers, a senior American official of the oil company, said recently that as a result of that experience and eight years of heightened tension and terrorist threats during the Iran-Iraq war, the company is "used to crises" and prepared to deal with them.

Security has been tightened, some facilities have been sealed in concrete bunkers and new detection systems have been installed. But the vast network of facilities spread out over tens of thousands of square miles remains difficult to seal off from all threats.

In April 1988, terrorists penetrated the Jubail oil facilities and laid exposives at a petrochemical plant.

They were arrested before the blast went off, however, and four of them were beheaded.