Thursday, August 29, 2013

Syria - A Minor Oil Player

Updated September 2014

Syria has been in headline news off and on for three years now and it appears that the looming ISIS-related conflict in the Middle East is once again weighing heavily on the world's consciousness   That said, there is very rarely any mention of Syria's oil and gas reserves or production levels, a situation that I hope to resolve with this posting.

Syria's first oil production began in 1968 with most of the current oil production being located along the Euphrates Graben in the northeastern part of the country.  For those of my readers that are non-geoscientists, a graben is a downthrown block of land that is bounded on both sides by a series of faults that is created as the earth's crust is pulled apart.  In the case of the Euphrates Graben, the feature is about 100 kilometres wide and extends for 160 kilometres in a southeast-northwest orientation.  Here is a map showing the location of the Euphrates Graben

Here is a cross section across the Euphrates Graben showing the "sag" in the earth's crust:

Here is a map showing Syria's oil and natural gas infrastructure:

Here is a map showing the contract areas and oil and gas fields in Syria:

For my Canadian readers, please note the participation of PetroCanada in the northeastern-most part of the country.

According to the Energy Information Administration (EIA), Syria produced around 334,2400 BOPD of oil in 2012 and 315.72 BCF of natural gas in 2011.   This puts Syria at 33rd place in the world of oil production and 41st place in the world of natural gas production.  

Here is a graph showing the peak and decline of Syria's total oil production:

Here is a graph showing the peak and decline of Syria's net oil exports and imports:

Here is a graph showing Syria's proved oil reserves:

According to the Organization of Arab Petroleum Exporting Countries (OAPEC), Syria has 2.5 billion barrels of oil reserves, putting it in 31st place in the world.  

In sharp contrast, here is a graph showing Syria's growing natural gas production:

Here is a graph showing Syria's proved natural gas reserves:

Sanctions and security concerns have put a halt to several international pipeline projects that were scheduled for Syria and exports of crude and petroleum products were severely curtailed in 2012, also due to sanctions with oil production down by over 50 percent from 2011 to 2012 as shown here: 

Syria's oil production had been in a state of decline for a decade and a half since peaking at 583,000 BOPD back in 1996.  Until hostilities began, a successful program of development drilling, new discoveries and field rehabilitation were expected to increase production capability and put a halt to production declines.

Oil production and development are managed by the Syrian Petroleum Company  (SPC), an offshoot of the Ministry of Petroleum and Mineral Resources.  Foreign oil companies have been offered a share of Syria's oil industry in an attempt to stem the country's production decline with formation of the Al-Furat Petroleum Company.  This joint venture is 50 percent owned by SPC, 32 percent by Shell Oil and China's CNPC.  China is also active in other parts of Syria through its Sinochem and Sinopec government oil companies.

For the past 2 decades or more, Syria has consumed less oil than it has produced.  Domestic consumption has risen slowly over the past 2 decades from around 200,000 BOPD to nearly 300,000 BOPD in 2010.  As shown in this chart, Syria has exported up to 400,000 BOPD back in 1996; this has declined to 109,000 BOPD in 2010, according to the EIA:

As shown on this more recent graph, Syria became a net oil importer in 2012 when consumption outran production:

Most of Syria's oil exports are/were shipped to European OECD nations including Austria, Germany, Italy, the Netherlands and France as shown on this pie chart:

In 2010, EU nations imported a rather insignificant amount of their oil from Syria, totalling 1.35 percent of all imports.  On the other hand, these exports provided a significant amount of Syrian government revenues, reaching 30 percent ($4.1 billion) in 2010.

Syria is estimated to have proven natural gas reserves of 8.5 trillion cubic feet (Tcf), half of which is associated with oil reservoirs.  Gas that is non-associated is found in the central and eastern part of the country.  In 2010, Syria produced 316 billion cubic feet (Bcf) of natural gas, however, due to hostilities, the rate fell to below 200 BCF in 2013 as shown here:

Approximately 23 percent of Syria's natural gas production was injected into oil reservoirs in an attempt to boost oil production with the bulk of the remainder used domestically for power production and industrial usage.  According to the EIA, Syria plans to substitute natural gas for oil by 2014 for both power production and industrial usage since Syria does not have the refining facilities necessary to produce refined oil for these purposes.  With Syria now producing more natural gas than it consumes, it is exporting small volumes to both Lebanon and Turkey.

According to this report from Syrian Oil and Gas News, the discovery of oil-bearing shales in the area to the southeast of Aleppo could be another important source of hydrocarbons with the possibility of over 50 billion tons of reserves.    

As you can see, while Syria did export a small volume of oil to Europe, those importing nations have easily substituted oil from other sources for their supply of Syrian imported crude.  Perhaps this explains why there has been reluctance on the part of both Europe and America to get involved in Syria's civil war; there simply is no economic reason to involve oneself as there is in the case of Libya and Iraq.  After all, other than saving a few thousand lives, there is no economic upside as there is in both Libya and Iraq who both had unseemly human rights records.


  1. Enlighting!
    What do we need to really get rid of the oil dependency?

  2. General Wesley Clark reveals US war plan – 2007