In 2009, Israel discovered three high-yielding natural gas fields off its Mediterranean coast. That spurred great interest in exploring other regions of the eastern Mediterranean. Preliminary surveys of Lebanon's offshore fields
show reserves of 30 trillion cubic feet of natural gas and 660 million barrels of oil. Four years earlier, the Syrian government had contracted the CGG Veritas company to conduct a 2-D [two-dimensional] seismic survey
off Syria’s coast. The survey concluded there was “significant evidence for a working petroleum system, both thermogenic and biogenic.
So in 2010, the Syria put three offshore blocks up for bid, but the Arab Spring uprisings and tough economic sanctions put the possible exploration on hold.
Though CGG Veritas officials would not talk about the results of its surveys, Jouejati believes, based on studies he has read, that there are gas reserves off the Syrian shoreline – “perhaps not as important a find as with Israel and Lebanon, but an important one nonetheless.”
And if Jouejati is correct, then an Alawite state on the coast would have an economic basis for survival. The Alawites also would also get an economic boost from transit fees they could charge for oil coming through pipelines from greater Syria to Mediterranean ports.
That's because Syria fields do produce a significant amount of crude oil – not significant like Gulf oil producers, but significant for the region. And the pipeline was built to get it to market through Mediterranean ports at Baniyas and Tartus.
Syria’s as energy producer and conduit
According to Mark Eshbaugh of the U.S. Energy Information Administration
(EIA), Syrian wells were producing about 400,000 barrels of crude per day before the civil war.
“Since the conflict, our latest short-term energy outlook pegs that number at about 100,000 barrels per day,” Eshbaugh said. “The Syrian Oil ministry has released a couple of estimates about what impact the uprising has had on Syria’s economy, and the estimates range as high as $8 billion, including export totals. That’s a massive impact.”
And the civil war has halted other ambitious projects involving oil and gas.
In 2009, for example, Assad announced
what he called his “Four Seas Strategy,” which would set up Syria as a hub of oil transport between the Mediterranean, the Black and Caspian seas and the Persian-Arab Gulf.
A year later, he signed
a memorandum of understanding with Iraq to build a gas and two oil pipelines from Iraq to the Syrian port of Baniyas.
In the summer of 2011, Iran announced
a $10 billion pipeline deal between Syria, Iraq and Iran that would carry gas more than 3,000 miles from Iran’s huge South Pars field (shared with Qatar) through Iraq to Syria.
Syria also planned to extend a portion of the Arab Gas Pipeline
from Aleppo to southern Turkey.
But like the other projects, the Aleppo-to-Turkey pipeline was put on hold by the civil war.