While U.S. warships bob in the Eastern Mediterranean Sea awaiting orders to strike Syria over President Bashar Assad’s chemical weapons, the Damascus regime is missing out on a plethora of oil and gas that its regional neighbors are now tapping into.
With the regime focusing unrelentingly on quelling rebels and the will of the people, Israel and Cyprus have been taking advantage of huge natural gas finds off their coasts, leaving the two countries without any significant competition.
If Syria were not controlled by the despot Assad, the country could have played a key role in oil and natural gas production in the region, especially as it has the largest reserve of oil in the eastern Mediterranean. But after two and a half years of civil war, exploration of energy resources is at a standstill. International oil companies once operating in Syria have abandoned their operations there amid escalating violence and sanctions targeting the country’s energy sector.
Syria's proven reserve of 2.5 billion barrels of oil is the largest in the region except for Iraq's, according to the Oil and Gas Journal. It also has a large proven reserve of natural gas of 8.5 trillion cubic feet.
This makes Syria the largest conventional hydrocarbon resource base in the Levant Basin, a stretch of sea extending from the coasts of Israel, Lebanon, Syria and Cyprus.
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Levant Basin has a mean undiscovered oil resource of 1.7 billion barrels of oil and undiscovered natural gas resource of 122 trillion cubic feet. Both Cyprus and Israel -- with help from Texas-based Noble Energy Inc. (NYSE:NBL) -- are looking to become regional powerhouses for the exportation of natural gas. Nobel is the main energy company exploring and drilling in the eastern Mediterranean Sea. In 2010, Noble Energy discovered one of the biggest gas fields off Israel’s coast, the largest natural gas find in the past 10 years.
Because Syria is not developing its natural resource in the Mediterranean, Cyprus and Israel are not worried about competition or territorial disputes arising with Syria in the near future.
Currently, Noble Energy and Cyprus are in talks to build a liquefied natural gas export facility, which will make Cyprus a regional hub in transferring LNG to markets in Europe and the Far East.