Syria’s authorities blamed saboteurs for the bombing of a major oil pipeline that carries crude westward to the 132,725-b/d refinery at Banyias from oil fields in Deir el-Zour province.
"Some citizens heard an explosion near a pipeline for transporting crude oil to Banyias," said Homs governor Ghassan Abdelal, who described the explosion as a “criminal act of sabotage.”
State media said the blast hit near the western town of Tal Kalakh, located between Homs and Tartous near the Tal Hosh dam. The report claimed that the "terrorist attack sought to cause oil to leak into the dam's waters in order to damage agricultural crops in the area."
Numeir Makhlouf, chairman of state-owned Syrian Co. for Oil Transport, said the oil leaked into a main lake that supplies irrigation water to the agricultural western area.
Oil Minister Sifian Allaw, who said 1,500 bbl of oil leaked from the struck pipeline into the water, said the pumping of oil was transferred to another pipeline without interruption to the flow.
Like other Arab states in the Middle East and North Africa, Syria has been struck by antigovernment protests, which have intensified in recent weeks with today’s pipeline attack marking an escalation in the crisis.
The blast marked the second incident involving an oil pipeline in a month, and the second time this week that Syria’s authorities have accused saboteurs of striking installations.
On July 13, a blast and a fire struck a natural gas pipeline in eastern Syria but the oil ministry denied sabotage, saying that the fire erupted on a pipeline that was under maintenance.
On July 23, authorities said saboteurs tied to the country's current uprising caused a passenger train to derail in central Syria, but opposition figures dismissed the accusation.
This most-recent pipeline blast came as activists said security forces killed at least five people during overnight raids in Deir el-Zour province and suburbs of the capital, Damascus.
Syrian authorities have unleashed a brutal crackdown in an effort to crush the revolt against President Bashar Assad, and activists say more than 1,600 civilians have died since the protests erupted in mid-March.
Last week, Kulczyk Oil Ventures Inc., Calgary, through its Loon Latakia Ltd. subsidiary, spudded the Itheria-1 exploratory well on Block 9 in Syria.
The well will test a large structure with four-way dip closure defined by 3D seismic in an area 200 km east of the city of Latakia (OGJ Online, July 22, 2011).
Syria has proven oil reserves of 2.5 billion bbl and produces 380,000 b/d, with around 200,000 b/d exported.
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