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The Syrian Oil Report

Syria has around 2.5 billion barrels of crude oil, which makes it the largest in terms of proven reserves in the eastern Mediterranean, but overall in the global scheme of things, a small player, accounting for less than 1% of the world’s output. But this onshore oil—largely concentrated in the east and northeast--was in the past a critical element of the country’s economy, at one time accounting for more than 25% of Syria’s economic output. Production has now fallen by 95%, while the government has lost control of the oilfields and Islamic rebel groups are engaged in bloody rivalry over them. Once the dust settles, exploration and production companies will also be eyeing Syria’s oil shale potential, which the government estimated in 2010 to be as high as 50 billion tons. Offshore, in Syria’s portion of the Levant Basin—where Israel has already made hefty finds and Lebanon hopes to start exploration if it ever manages to install a new Cabinet to pass the necessary legislation—Russia is closing in already.

Onshore, the situation right now is untenable. Islamic rebel groups are vying for control of the oilfields in the Deir az-Zor (Deir al-Zor) province, and Assad is has little choice but to deal with them as they hold the country’s energy hostage for all intents and purposes. This means more funding for these Islamist rebels, which Assad is hoping to use to his benefit by getting the West to respond to the situation…

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