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SYRIA - Sufian Allaw.

The Minister of Petroleum and Mineral Resources, Allaw took up this position on Feb. 11, 2006. He succeeded Dr. Ibrahim Haddad. Like Haddad, Allaw has had little experience in the petroleum and mineral sectors. Until he was given this portfolio, he used to be deputy minister of electricity.

(Before becoming petroleum minister in late 2001, Dr. Haddad used to head Syria's Atomic Energy Organisation. A Christian from a Greek Orthodox denomination, Haddad came from a prominent Syrian family with branches in Lebanon. Haddad had succeeded Muhammad Maher Bin Husni Jamal, who had been minister of petroleum and mineral resources since July 3, 1996. Jamal, an efficient upstream expert who previously was chairman of al-Furat Petroleum Co., now the biggest oil producer in Syria, worked hard to stop foreign companies from abandoning the country. A number of foreign firms had left the country because of tough E&P terms and restrictive approach to the downstream sector by Jamal's predecessor. But as in the case of his successor Haddad, Jamal's hands were tied and had to follow orders originating from the invisible layer).

Allaw has been empowered to improve the E&P regime. But this remains less attractive than E&P agreements on offer by Turkey, Egypt and other countries in the region.

Allaw has inherited a declining oil industry, with crude oil output in 2008 expected to fall to 360,000 b/d from a peak of 615,000 b/d in 1994. Syria this year becomes a net importer of oil, as it was until the mid-1980s (see Part 2 in omt11SyriaFieldsMar10-08 & gmt11SyriaFieldsMar10-08).

In early 2008, Allaw stressed that Syria had big reserves of phosphate, which he put at 2 bn tons. He said demand for the country's crude phosphate had grown and its prices had risen by 25% to about 70/ton - compared to 30/ton in 2006. He said the government planned to develop the reserves further and raise the production of phosphate-based fertilisers for local use and export.

Allaw said phosphate production had reached around 3,8 million tons/year from al-Sharqiya and Khnephis mines. Of this, some 650,000 tons/year are being supplied the state-owned Fertilisers Co. He said about 900,000 tons/year were being exported to Lebanon, with another 2.3 million tons/year sold to 12 other Arab and foreign countries. ?He said exports were planned to increase to 6 million tons/year by 2010. This necessitates the improvement of the railway between Homs and Tartous governorates, and the buying of some 20 trailers by the Railways Establishment. The government is upgrading the port of Tartous, from which both phosphate and fertilisers are being exported. The Ministry of Industry is to have a plant built to produce multi-ingredient fertilisers.

Deputy Oil Minister Hassan Zainab, who in 2003 took over from Jaber Ghzayel, had helped Minister Allaw in getting to the depth of the petroleum industry. Ghzayel now heads Sytrol, the oil marketing concern attached to the prime minister's office (see OMT).

As a minister, Allaw has control over the heads of all the state-owned companies active in the petroleum sector, including the Syrian Petroleum Co. (SPC) and Syrian Gas Co. (SGC), and their upstream and downstream units. But the ministry has no control over external marketing of oil, which is handled by Sytrol.

Under the minister's guidance, the SPC and SGC heads nominate the chairmen of the oil and gas producing JVs who are usually elected automatically by the latter's boards of directors. These chairmen are chosen from among the most senior SPC and SGC executives.

Deputy Minister for Mineral Resources Marwan al-Shara' said during a debate in early 2007 that the wealth of Syria's minerals such as phosphate, zeolite, quartz sands, marble, lime and rock salt could be among the alternatives to petroleum and renewables. But he added that, worldwide, these sources constituted only about 10% of the total energy consumed, while in Syria the use of renewables did not exceed 3%.

Shara' indicated that Syria could, in the future, depend on several options of renewables whether for industrial use (like hydrogen and geo-thermal resources) or for home use (like solar energy).

Deputy Minister of Transport Mousa al-Sha'ar, another decision maker concerned about the future availability of fuels in Syria, said during that debate that the role of renewables in Syria was still negligible. He referred to a 2006 report published by the IEA on the use of alternative fuels up to 2050, saying all renewables will not constitute an important alternative in the near future.

But Sha'ar said this did not mean one should stop thinking of other alternatives such the fuel cell energy (hydrogen) for vehicles as well as biofuels (ethanol) extracted from plantation or wood.
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Publication:APS Review Oil Market Trends
Date:Mar 24, 2008
Previous Article:SYRIA - Jaber Ghzayel.
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