The war over Syria’s gas fields

Yezid Sayigh writes: While much of the world’s attention has recently focused on the threat of pillage and destruction posed by Islamic State forces to the ancient Syrian desert city of Palmyra, damage to the energy supply and potential earnings is probably a bigger concern for the regime of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad. The Islamic State immediately followed its May 2015 capture of Palmyra with the seizure of nearby gas fields, depriving the regime of 45 percent of its gas and electricity resources, according to Syrian opposition estimates.

The self-proclaimed Islamic State has had its eye on the regime’s gas resources since at least July 2014, when it overran some of Jabal Shaer, part of an area containing massive gas fields said to produce 3 million cubic meters (106 million cubic feet) of raw natural gas (also known as crude gas) per day. This is compared to an estimated total national daily output of some 14.8 million cubic meters in 2014 according to Syria’s Ministry of Petroleum and Mineral Resources.

Lying roughly 150 kilometers (93 miles) northwest of Palmyra, Shaer supplies the Ebla processing plant at Furqlus to the west, which provides liquid petroleum gas (LPG, or clean or fuel gas) to electricity-generating stations that feed into the national grid. Regime forces retained control of the actual gas fields in Shaer in July 2014, but the Islamic State seized four wells in a new attack in late October. Assad’s Syrian Arab Army once again retook the area, though the Shaer gathering station was severely damaged and most wells were shut down. A reduced supply resumed from nearby Chinese-owned wells nearby to the Hayan treatment plant and processing facility, which commenced activity in 2009 and which serves as a major LPG, oil, and condensate reserve distribution center to power plants in several parts of the country. [Continue reading…]

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