Why PMC "Wagner" wanted to squeeze gas plant in Syria

Journalists tried to reconstruct the causes of the tragedy in Deir ez-Zor on September 7-8.
Origin source
Armed people, among whom, according to press reports, were our compatriots, were killed in the Syrian province of Deir ez-Zor on the eastern bank of the Euphrates during an air strike by the United States on the night of 7 to 8 February. They are called soldiers of the Syrian government army, military advisors, then fighters of the so-called private military company. It is known that they tried to attack one of the largest Syrian gas fields, reclaimed from IGIL (forbidden in Russia as a terrorist organization) by the pro-American coalition.

According to the most widespread version, the attackers wanted to take control of the oil and gas deposit of Conoco (Conoco). He is called one of the richest in Syria. Once it was discovered by an American energy company and named it by its name. In the same place, Conoco Fillips built a gas processing plant.


Deir ez-Zor is the eastern province of Syria. Borders with Iraq. The government of Bashar Assad lost control over these territories in 2012, they were occupied by the Free Syrian Army - the opposition. And in 2014 it was beaten out by the "Islamic state". In the most oil-bearing Syrian province, in the hands of the IGIL fighters, there were ten fields and refineries for oil and gas.

The "bookkeeping" of Abu Sayyaf, the "chief oilman" of IGIL, killed by US special forces in May 2015, helped to assess the potential of the Syrian deposits. His papers and tables in Excel, captured by the US military, studied the newspaper The Wall Street Journal. It turned out that for 6 months the income of IGIL from the sale of hydrocarbons was $ 289.5 million. At the same time, IGIL "dumped", selling oil at prices two or two and a half times lower than world prices. The publication estimated that if the resources from the same fields were extracted and sold by legal companies, they would not have earned twice, but hundreds of times more. Workers engaged in the oil industry in Igil paid from 160 to 400 dollars a month. The average salary in Syria is $ 50.

Now practically in the city of Deir ez-Zor, more precisely - along the Euphrates River there is a conditional border. On the east coast - the territory, reclaimed from the YGIL Kurds and the forces of the pro-American coalition. On the west - controlled by the government of Bashar Assad lands. The coalition, represented mainly by the Kurds, moved from the northwest, the Syrian Arab army - from the south-west, from the Palmyra. On the way, they drove out the Igilovites - who managed as much as they could by the time of the "meeting". I managed to do it: it was a race where oil and gas fields, won from terrorists, served as a prize. Two forces met the Euphrates.

It so happened that on the eastern side, that is, under the control of the opposition, represented mainly by Kurds, and its American allies, there were almost all Deir ez-Zor deposits, including what the expert from the Middle East Institute Anna Manafova calls "the pearl of the Syrian oil complex" Al Omar. The Financial Times wrote that from it the Igilovites, with their artisanal methods of extraction, squeezed 9-13 thousand barrels a day. Oil there is light - expensive, sold it igilovtsy at $ 45 per barrel. This is at a time when world average prices reached hundreds. In another field, al-Tanak, they received more, up to 17 thousand barrels per day. But the oil there is worse in quality, it was sold for $ 40. Before the war, in each of these oil fields, the Syrians extracted about 30,000 barrels per day.

Among the deposits that eventually became the opposition, there is a gas "pearl" - Konoko. This is the third deposit in Syria for explored reserves, before the war, they extracted two million cubic meters of gas per day. But the main value of Konoko is not even reserves, but a gas processing plant built by Americans in the 2000s. Unlike other infrastructure, which the terrorists destroyed during the retreat, it remained in good condition.

 As "Fontanka" already wrote, the government of Bashar Assad and the Russian company EuroPolis signed a memorandum, according to which the latter undertakes the release of the captured oil and gas objects captured by IGIL and their subsequent protection. For this, it is due 25 percent of the resources subsequently extracted. "EuroPolis" is a company closely connected with Yevgeny Prigozhin, the so-called PMC of Wagner is associated with him, as Fontanka has shown. If the Wagner fighters participated in the "race" to the Euphrates, in a hurry to clear as many fields as possible from the IGIL, their leadership can be understood.

The forces of the pro-American coalition won the race. Proasadov fighters did not have time to go further than the Euphrates, and they succeeded in freeing only one field on the west coast - al-Taim. It is rather meager. Igilovtsam gave no more than 600 barrels per day.


If the attack on February 7 was really an attempt to intercept the Kurds from the Kurds, then, apparently, not the first.

The Konoko deposit, no matter what "pearl" it is for Syria, from the point of view of large energy powers of great interest does not represent. But for the Syrian opposition, it can serve as a trump card in negotiations with the government. For Kurds - a strong card when discussing autonomy. For government forces, this is a source of income that allows you to establish control in the territory. For a possible "liberators under the memorandum" a quarter of this income is very good. These participants had an incentive to win Conoco, and having won - to retain.

Kurds repulsed Konigo's Igolovka on September 23 last year. A day later, the Washington Post reports, representatives of the pro-American coalition accused Russia of inflicting air strikes on positions of Kurds in the east of Syria. While the coalition is struggling to finish off the IGIL in the region, there were accusations that Russian combat aircraft were not aiming for terrorists, but for the fighters of the opposition forces. "In three places in the Deir az-Zor province, including - at a large gas field, beaten up on the eve of the militants," the newspaper specified. It was about Conoco. This was the first attempt to get it.

In response, Russia accused the United States of duplicity and recalled the death of Lieutenant-General Valery Asapov. Recall that the Russian officer was killed in Deir ez Zor in those days, September 24, but he was killed by mortar fire from the IGIL, the opposition and the US had no relationship to his death. Nevertheless, Deputy Foreign Minister Sergei Ryabkov said that his life is "the price paid for by blood for American hypocrisy." He did not say a word about the attacks on Konoko.

Syria has never been a major exporter of oil and gas. They were enough to provide their energy and trade with their nearest neighbors. In the last pre-war year, 2010, according to the International Energy Agency, the country consumed 21.7 million tons of oil equivalent, and produced 27.7 million tons. That is, it can be seen that the surpluses that went for sale were modest. Nevertheless, according to orientalist Anna Manafova, for small Syria oil was about 20 percent of all state revenues. But production fell every year before the war: because of the sanctions imposed on Assad after accusations of using chemical weapons, its oil industry lacked technology. As for the gas, it was all for own needs. Since 2008, Syria even had to import it from Egypt.

Now the infrastructure of the fields, pipelines, processing plants are destroyed by the Islamic state militants. The Konoko deposit was cut off from consumers: the gas pipeline connecting it with Homs province was destroyed. And, conversely, from Homs, which is now under the control of the Assad government, electricity was supplied here, and if the parties do not agree, the plant will have to look for another source. But still the main thing is not what is on the ground, but what's in the bowels. How many skilled craftsmen, armed with the right technologies, could have learned from Syria?

Analysts of British Petroleum estimated the proven oil reserves in Syria at 0.3-0.4 billion tons. This is 0.2 percent of global reserves. Approximately the same situation with gas: 0.2-0.3 trillion cubic meters - 0.15 percent of global reserves. In 2010, the Syrian government reported that there are oil shale deposits in the country - about 50 billion tons. True, it did not have time to prove it, the war began. In the early 2000s, oil and gas were discovered off the coast of Israel and Cyprus in the Levantine basin. Syria decided to start exploration on the shelf in its part of the basin, and in December 2013 the government of Bashar Assad signed an agreement with the Russian company Soyuzneftegaz. It was assumed that the wells would be drilled on an area of ​​2,190 square kilometers. But the work stopped, not having time to find something. The company announced this on September 29, 2015, and on the 30th, recall, Russia began its military operation in Syria.