Natural resources and energy
Syria's most important natural resources are
oil, natural gas and phosphate. Extraction of marble,
plaster and salt also occurs. In addition, there are
smaller assets of iron ore, asphalt, copper, uranium,
bauxite, magnesium, gold and silver.
To the east of Palmyra (Tadmur) there are large
phosphate deposits, which began to be exploited in 1972.
The phosphate resources laid the foundation for a
significant domestic fertilizer industry.
Major exports by Syria with a full list of the top products exported by the country. Includes trade value in U.S. dollars and the percentage for each product category.
The first, relatively insignificant oil discoveries
were made in the 1950s, but those sources only lasted
for almost 30 years. More good quality oil was found in
the mid-1980s in the central part of the country.
However, these reserves are also not so large and
production had already begun to decline before the
outbreak of war in 2011. Transit traffic of oil
previously generated higher revenues than the country's
own production. However, the two oil pipelines from Iraq
through Syria are old and worn. Syria, Iraq and Iran
reached agreement on new oil pipelines in 2010 and 2011,
but these plans are now shelved because of the war.
The oil industry has also been seriously damaged by
the war, by attacks on pipelines and to some extent oil
fields. At the beginning of the conflict, Syria produced
over 400,000 barrels of oil a day, but the figure
dropped rapidly from mid-2011 and the former oil
exporter Syria was eventually forced to import oil for
its own consumption. This has cost the state big money,
especially as the government has been subsidizing oil
products in its own market for decades. International
sanctions against the regime also prevent deliveries.
Abbreviationfinder: A popular acronym site in the world covering abbreviation for each country. For example, SY stands for Syria.
Before the war, Syria had two major oil refineries in
Banyas and Homs, which have remained under government
control. The problem is that the government can no
longer produce enough oil and sell it to the refineries.
The Homs refinery has been used very little because of
the war, but the plant in the coastal town of Banyas has
been in use and supplied with imported oil from Iraq and
Iran. This has allowed the government to keep the wheels
of the economy moving during several years of war, but
it has come at a great cost to Iran, which for political
reasons has provided Syria with extensive loans and
assistance. Nevertheless, the oil shortage and lack of
tanker traffic have caused sharply rising prices and
major economic problems in government-controlled areas,
although the situation is even worse in
opposition-controlled parts of the country.
As of 2012, the most important Syrian oil fields came
under the control of various rebel organizations,
including Kurdish groups and the Islamic State (see
Political system). Since then, the government has
recaptured some fields that IS had undergone, while
others - among them the country's largest oil field in
al-Omar - have been taken over by the Kurdish-led forces
which had a key role in driving IS away. The Kurds
demand that any agreements with the central government
confirm the sharing of energy resources. There are
sources claiming that during the war years the regime
bought oil from both IS and the Kurdish administration
that developed in the north.
In April 2013, the EU again legalized oil imports
from Syrian opposition groups, but retained its
sanctions on the government's oil sales. In eastern and
northern Syria, private entrepreneurs and rebel groups
have created hundreds of small-scale refineries to
refine the crude oil they pick up from oil fields or buy
from other groups. Syrian oil also appears to be sold by
smugglers in Iraq, Turkey and other countries. Many of
the small refineries in eastern Syria were bombed by the
United States from 2014, as a way to weaken the Islamic
State's economic base. These bombings appear to have
contributed to increasing oil and fuel shortages in
The first natural gas deposits were discovered in
1982 and since the late 1990s, production has increased.
The gas sector has also been damaged by the war, but the
government and its Russian allies control the country's
largest gas field al-Sha'ir. Several projects were
initiated prior to the uprising to link Syrian gas
pipelines with neighboring countries, but these are no
Electricity production has mainly been based on oil
and gas and to a certain extent hydropower. Large
investments have been made to increase electricity
production, which tripled between 1994 and 2004.
Nevertheless, demand was always greater than supply.
Many power plants were old and poorly maintained.
Especially in the summers, electricity is switched off
in the major cities for hours every morning and evening.
There have been loose plans for a Russian-built nuclear
power plant, but it is viewed with great suspicion in
the US and Israel, which fear that Syria wants to
acquire nuclear weapons.
The hydropower from the Euphrates dam has also failed
to meet production targets. Lack of rain, along with
Turkish dams in the upper Euphrates, has led to a
reduction in water flows on the Syrian side of the
border. At the same time, Syrian projects have
contributed to lower water flows in Iraq. Falling
groundwater levels create problems in several parts of
the country. The high Population growth has exacerbated
the water shortage and several times the authorities
have rationed the water in the larger cities.
Electricity production has been seriously damaged by
the war and the oil shortage, and some parts of Syria
are now completely out of regular electricity supply.
The worst is the situation in opposition-controlled
areas in the north and east.
FACTS - ENERGY AND ENVIRONMENT
Energy use per person
575 kilos of oil equivalent (2014)
Electricity consumption per person
971 kilowatt hours, kWh (2014)
Carbon dioxide emissions in total
30 704 thousand tonnes (2014)
Carbon dioxide emissions per inhabitant
1.6 tonnes (2014)
The share of energy from renewable sources
0.5 percent (2015)