Russian energy firm to explore oil in Syria

offshore-RDK-Dec30The government of Syria has signed an agreement with Russian energy company SoyuzNefteGaz for oil exploration in the country's territorial waters off the Mediterranean coast

According to state news agency SANA, the deal will cover an area of 2,188 sq km, stretching southward from the city of Tartous to Banias, and extending about 136 km into the coast.

Syria, mired in conflict, has reportedly seen its oil production fall by more than 50 per cent, according to Oil Ministry sources, as the opposition has seized wells in the oil-rich eastern province of Deyr El-Zour near the Iraqi border.

The region covered by the Russian contract is considerably less vulnerable to rebel attack, said government official sources.

SoyuzNefteGaz is expected to spend US$15mn for initial exploration, before investing an additional US$75mn to develop at least one well.

Established in 2000, SoyuzNefteGaz had previously won government tenders to prospect for oil in the eastern parts of Syria in 2004.

The company is headed by former Russian energy minister Yury Shafranik and has oil projects in Iraq and Uzbekistan.

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