BEIRUT

Middle East

State of Syria’s oil industry in midst of conflict and sanctions

PARIS: The European Union Monday agreed to ease its embargo on Syria’s oil production, which has dwindled to just a third of its level from before the conflict erupted in March 2011. Following is a rundown of the current state of Syria’s oil sector:

PRODUCTION AND EXPORTS

From around 400,000 barrels of oil a day in early 2011 – ranking the country as the world’s 30th-biggest oil producer – the International Energy Agency estimates that Syrian production has slipped to 130,000 barrels a day, or just over 0.1 percent of the world total.

An April report cited by the country’s official media said oil exports, which previously accounted for more than a third of Syria’s foreign trade, have dropped to almost zero.

Syria’s total of exported goods, including oil, fell to $185 million in 2012, compared with $7.2 billion in 2011 and over $11 billion in 2010.

OIL FIELDS UNDER REBEL AND REGIME CONTROL

Syria’s main oil fields are concentrated around the northeastern provinces of Deir al-Zor and Hassakeh, near the Iraqi border, and is where key sector players such as Shell and Total operated until they suspended their activities. The oil from this region is of high quality.

The opposition Syrian Observatory for Human Rights estimates that the bulk of these oil fields are now controlled by rebels – a main motive for the EU wanting to ease the embargo – and Nusra Front militants in particular.

President Bashar Assad’s regime still controls the Al-Omar oil field – one of the regime’s last positions east of Deir al-Zor city – and in the far northeast, the state-owned Syrian Petroleum Company exploits some wells located in territory controlled by the Kurdish minority.

EFFECT OF THE EMBARGO

As a result of the EU oil embargo the country’s oil and gas sector now mainly serves domestic consumption.

Even with the embargo lifted, export opportunities remain meager as the pipeline network runs through regime-held territory.

Experts say that oil exports would therefore have to travel by tanker to Turkey and Iraq.

Before the conflict broke out, the IEA estimated that Syrian oil exports reached some 143,000 barrels a day, with the European Union buying most of the crude.

 
A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Daily Star on April 23, 2013, on page 8.

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