Syrian Petroleum Company (SPC) is charged with managing Syria’s steady decline in oil production, a thankless task for its new managing director, Omar al-Hamad, who takes the helm of a company that lacks the resources to stem the falls on its own. The company is responsible for less than half of Syria’s estimated 370,000 b/d output, the rest being produced by joint venture companies, including the largest, Al-Furat Petroleum Company, a joint venture of SPC, Shell and PetroCanada.

SPC was formed in 1974, taking over responsibility for production from the General Commission for Petroleum Affairs.

Syria is a relative late starter in oil terms – its crude oil production only started in 1968. Production has been on a downward path for the past two decades, declining from more than 600,00 b/d in 1995 to slip below the 400,000-b/d mark for the first time in 2007. Output is likely to decline by about 20,000 b/d every year, predicts Oil & Mineral Resources Minister Sufian Alao. Nonetheless, SPC will continue with its exploration and production effort, centred on seven core areas. The com-pany’s blocks are mainly located in the northeast and include 20 producing fields.

Company Syrian Petroleum Company
Oil Reserves 2.5 billion barrels
Oil Production2007 394,000 barrels a day*
Gas Reserves 10.2 trillion cubic feet
Gas Production 2007 5.3 billion cubic metres
*includes NGLs. Source: BP Statistical Review 2008

It has racked up some successes – more than 10 small oil and gas discoveries have been made in recent years. Oil majors have offered to redevelop the field, with Total submitting a plan to hike production to 150,000 b/d using EOR techniques. But SPC has managed to maintain its hold on the field, developing it and the smaller Tishreen field on its own.

SPC maintains a strong relationship with its contracting groups, many of which are from the former Soviet Union. For example, Russia’s Zarubezhneft is working on the Tishreen field. SPC is also looking to develop the Kebibe field in association with China National Petroleum Corporation.

Since 2001, SPC has had to contend with foreign oil companies bidding for acreage under open licensing tenders. These have produced largely mixed results – a debut offshore licensing round in 2007 only attracted a single bidder for the four blocks on offer.

Unless SPC is able to deploy EOR techniques, much of its existing base is likely to decline over the next 10 years. With domestic production waning and US-imposed sanctions biting hard, making it difficult to secure key materials and technology, SPC is in an increasingly invidious position.