(Reuters) - The European Union is expected to tighten sanctions on the Syrian energy sector next week to increase pressure on President Bashar al-Assad after a U.S. ban on trading Syrian oil products began last week.
Human rights activists say more than 1,700 civilians have been killed during anti-government protests since March. Syria blames the violence on armed groups, which it says have killed 500 soldiers and police.
Syria’s net oil exports were less than 117,000 barrels per day (bpd) in 2009, according to the U.S. Energy Information Administration (EIA).
The impact of any Syrian energy disruption on global supplies would be much smaller than the loss of over 1.3 million bpd of oil and 956 million cubic feet (mmcf) a day of gas exported by Libya before rebels revolted against Muammar Gaddafi in early 2011.
Some European oil traders are still supplying fuel to Damascus, and several international oil companies have significant interests in the country.
Most of Syria’s oil exports head to Europe.
The European Union has established a list of members of Assad’s government to be targeted by asset freezes and travel bans.
Some member states have raised informally the idea of broadening the scope of the EU measures to cover oil and gas, but officials have said they do not expect any imminent action.
Following are some key facts about Syria’s oil and gas industry and its key customers.
* Syria is a relatively small oil producer, accounting for just 0.5 percent of global production in 2010, according the latest BP Statistical Review of World Energy.
* Syria’s oil production declined from 581,000 bpd in 2001 to 375,000 in 2009, according to BP data, but recovered to 385,000 bpd in 2010 after new fields started up.
* It has 2.5 billion barrels of proven oil reserves, just 0.2 percent of the world total and comparable with the United Kingdom’s 2.8 billion barrels.
* Most of Syria’s known oil reserves are in the east of the country near the border with Iraq, with some smaller fields in the center of the country.
* The Al-Furat Petroleum Company — a joint venture between state-run Syrian Petroleum Co. (SPC), Shell and CNPC — is the main producer consortium operating in the country. But because SPC operates AFPC, any withdrawal by the foreign partners would be unlikely to even cut production, industry sources say.
* Syria’s two key production streams are the sour and heavy Souedie crude, which yields lower quality oil products, and the sweet and lighter Syrian Light grade.
* More than half of Syria’s oil output is processed at the state-run Baniyas (133,000 bpd) and Homs (107,000 bpd) refineries. But the country has to import gas oil and diesel to meet demand — much of it for oil-fired power generation.
* Some 150,000 bpd of mostly sour Souedie crude is sold by state marketing firm Sytrol. Most is exported to Germany, Italy, and France, according to the International Energy Agency.
* Syria has three Mediterranean oil export/import terminals — Baniyas, Tartous, and the smaller port of Latakia.
* After a failed 2007 auction, the government re-launched a tender in late March 2011 for international oil companies to bid for offshore oil exploration and production sharing contracts in the Mediterranean Sea.
* At the end of June 2011, it invited bidders to develop oil shale prospects in a tender which closes on November 30, 2011.
* Proved reserves of natural gas stood at 0.3 billion cubic meters (bcm), or 9.1 trillion cubic feet, at the end of 2010 —equal to 0.1 percent of the global total.
* Natural gas production rose to 7.8 bcm in 2010, up 37 percent from 5.7 bcm produced in 2009. BP estimates Syria produced around 800 mmcf/day in 2010, up from an average of 500 mmcf/day in 2008 and 2009, after new fields started up.
* The start up of the South Central Area gas — built by Russia’s Stroytransgaz — at the end of 2009 boosted Syria’s natural gas production by about 40 percent, with several other projects coming onstream last year.
* Around a third the gas produced in 2008 was reinjected into oilfields, with the rest burned by power plants and other domestic users.
* About half of the country’s electricity has been made by burning refined oil, much of which has to be imported, according to the U.S. Energy Information Administration.
* A blockade on oil trade could still cause power cuts. But, with gas output rising rapidly, Syria is becoming less reliant on oil and aims to use only gas in power plants by 2014.
* Syria has imported gas from Egypt through the Arab Gas Pipeline (AGP) since 2008, with imports of 0.69 bcm in 2010. The pipeline was rocked by a series of explosions in 2011.
* Upstream oil production is controlled by the state-run Syrian Petroleum Company (SPC), which is responsible for about half of existing production in the country and takes 50 percent stakes in new development projects with foreign partners.
* Foreign companies operating in the energy sector include Royal Dutch Shell, French Total, China National Petroleum Corporation (CNPC), India’s Oil and Natural Gas Corp (ONGC), Canada’s Suncor Energy, Britain’s Petrofac and Gulfsands Petroleum, along with Russian oil company Tatneft and engineering firm Stroytransgaz.
* Asian national oil companies, led by China’s Sinochem, and smaller independents like Gulfsands have been most active in recent exploration tenders.
* China’s CNPC and Sinopec are helping to revive output under rehabilitation contracts for small mature fields, while Shell and Total have been awarded contracts to probe deeper into existing fields.
* Foreign firms help Syria produce light crude and gas while state run firm Sytrol exclusively produces Souedie and markets it outside Syria.
* Sytrol typically issues monthly tenders to sell crude oil. Firms such as Arcadia and Shell often win tenders. Syria also tenders to import refined oil products. One of the latest tenders were won by Vitol and Trafigura [ID:nL6E7JC1PI]. Sources: BP Statistical Review of World Energy 2011, U.S. Energy Information Administration, Syrian government and company websites, Reuters news.
Reporting by Daniel Fineren, Ikuko Kurahone, Dmitry Zhdannikov and Barbara Lewis, editing by Anthony Barker