By Nayla Razzouk
Iran signed an initial agreement to build a natural-gas pipeline to export the fuel to Syria through Iraq, the Syrian Arab National Agency reported.
The accord, signed today during the visit to Syria of Iranian Oil Minister Masoud Mir-Kazemi, also provided for further cooperation for the construction of an oil refinery in Syria with Venezuela, the agency said.
Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez said in June that his country would have a 33 percent stake in the planned refinery, which he said could cost $4.7 billion and produce 140,000 barrels of oil per day.
The planned pipeline carrying gas from Iran, holder of the worldâ€™s second-largest gas reserves, to Syria through Iraq will feed into the Arab regional gas network planned to link the three countries to Lebanon, Egypt and Jordan.
The network can carry Iranian and Iraqi gas via a 56-inch (142-centimeter) link with daily capacity of as much as 110 million cubic meters, Syrian Energy Minister Sufian Alao said yesterday at a press conference with Mir-Kazemi in Damascus.
The gas will be distributed to Syria, Lebanon and Jordan, and some quantities will later be exported mainly through Turkey to European countries, he said.
Mir-Kazemi and Alao also discussed the planned sale of Iranian gas to Syria through a pipeline that is scheduled to run across Turkey later this year.
Iran and Syria previously agreed that daily gas exports to Syria through Turkey will start at 3 million cubic meters and increase gradually to 9 million, depending on the Turkish pipeline capacity, Alao said.
Syria had proven oil reserves of 2.5 billion barrels at the end of 2009 and has the smallest gas deposits in the region after Bahrain, according to BP Plcâ€™s Statistical Review.
Syriaâ€™s oil will run out within 18 years, according to its reserves-to-production ratio as calculated by BP. The government is trying to halt the decline in output by attracting investment to new developments.
To contact the reporter on this story: Nayla Razzouk in Amman at firstname.lastname@example.org