Oil & Gas
On the eve of the Syrian conflict, half a dozen Western oil companies were active in Syria. Among these, Royal Dutch Shell and Total E&P, were the major players. However, the country’s descent into chaos and the subsequent imposition of Western sanctions on the oil sector led to the freezing of their activities. By the end of 2012, all Western companies had suspended their operations in Syria, declaring force majeure and freezing their assets.
Efforts to resurrect the Kirkuk-Banias oil pipeline have recently gained momentum. However, financial constraints and political and security instability continue to deter the project's implementation.
In the third quarter (Q3) of 2023, Iran oil shipments to Syria remained stable, registering a slight decrease compared to the previous quarter, but in line with the general upward trend in recent years.
The Syrian government recently inaugurated a new gas well in Palmyra that will help narrow the gap between supply and demand. It is the second such gas well to start production in recent months. Meanwhile, the government has contracted an otherwise little known company to invest in various oil and gas fields in Palmyra and around Deir-ez-Zor.
A state-owned Chinese energy and chemical company recently appointed a new manager for its subsidiary in Syria, suggesting China’s renewed interest in Syria’s oil sector.
Iran’s oil exports to Syria increased significantly during the second quarter of 2023 compared with the previous quarter.
A number of developments in Syria will need to be closely monitored in light of the events of the past weekend in Russia.
Official data show that oil products represented jointly 49 percent of Syria’s imports in 2021, 38 percent in 2020, and 39 percent in 2019. Other imported items include vehicles to transport prisoners and tanks and armoured military vehicles.
Gulfsands Petroleum says the value of “stolen production” from the block it operates exceeds USD 3 billion since 2017.
The Ministry of Electricity recently confirmed that it awarded the Deir Ali Power Plant to a local company suspected to have ties to powerful, regime-affiliated war profiteers.
The Ministry of Petroleum and Mineral Resource has inaugurated a new gas well in the Homs governorate.
Iran's crude oil exports to Syria appear to have remained high in the first quarter of 2023. Oil supplies in Q4, 2022 and Q1, 2023 were actually higher than in any quarter in the previous two-and-a-half years, which means that the reasons behind the shortages in previous months are still unclear.
Iran may be putting harsher conditions on its supplies of crude oil to Syria. A recent report has suggested that Tehran has doubled the price at which it sells its oil and that it is now requiring Damascus to pay in cash; these two measures would have a significant fiscal impact on the Syrian government. The reasons behind this policy move are unclear.
The Syrian government has been seeking to increase phosphate production and export as it starts excavating a new mine near Palmyra and renews a barter deal with Belarus.
Iranian crude oil supplies to Syria increased by 8 percent last year, according to some reports, although statements by Syrian officials and a severe oil crisis, which began in August 2022, suggest otherwise.
The changes in the ownership structure of Arfada Petroleum, an oil company previously owned by the Katerji family, have revealed Russia’s influence in the potentially lucrative venture at the expense of the prominent business family.
The suspension of Iranian oil shipments to Syria since early September has caused widespread energy shortages across the country.
The Syrian Salvation Government, the political arm of Hayat Tahrir Al-Sham that controls most of the Idlib governorate, has restructured the lucrative oil and mobile telecommunications sectors to its benefit.
The Syrian and Lebanese governments have yet to meet to discuss demarcating their maritime borders, despite Beirut's attempts to initiate negotiations.
Syrian and Russian officials recently discussed joint energy projects at two events in Moscow and Damascus. Though little new information was revealed about the status of these projects, both officials acknowledged that they face difficulties.