Black Gold: Who Controls Syria’s Oil, and How Much is It All Worth?

Speaking to reporters late last week, US President Donald Trump told reporters that although he has been pulling troops out of Kurdish-held areas in northern Syria, the US has “stayed back and kept the oil” in northeastern Syria. “I like oil. We’re keeping the oil,” he emphasised.

Just how much oil is Trump talking about?

On October 26, the Russian Defence Ministry held a briefing, revealing that Russian military intelligence had discovered that “leading American corporations,” working together with private military contractors and supported by US special forces and air power, were generating over $30 million a month in revenues by smuggling out of Syria from the oil-rich province of Deir ez-Zor.

But although Syria was never a major Middle Eastern energy power to begin with, even $30 million a month is just a fraction of the country’s potential output.

Before the War

In the late 2010s, before Syria descended into a foreign-backed civil conflict on the wave of the so-called ‘Arab Spring’ protests, the country’s oil and gas industries earned billions of dollars in revenues, contributing to upwards of 20 percent of state revenue and about 35 percent of Syria’s export earnings, and allowing the country to enjoy self-sufficiency in oil supplies, while depending on imports for just a fraction of its natural gas needs.

According to US Energy Information Administration data, the country produced an average of about 400,000 barrels of oil per day in 2009,…

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