Suncor, Gulfsands declare force majeure in Syria

Suncor Energy Inc. and Gulfsands Petroleum PLC each declared force majeure and are suspending their respective operations with Syria’s state-owned General Petroleum Corp. (GPC) to comply with sanctions imposed by the European Union.

“These actions are taken as a result of sanctions on Syria announced by the European Union on Dec. 2,” Suncor said, adding, “The company is working through a plan to safely withdraw its expatriates while retaining its Syrian employees and determining how we can best support Syrian employees during this extremely difficult time for their country.”

Suncor Chief Executive Officer Rick George said, “We’ve been monitoring developments in the region very closely during the last several months, and we’ve always been clear that we would comply with all relevant sanctions imposed on the country.”

Gulfsands likewise said the most recent amendment to the sanctions is the inclusion on the designated list of the GPC, which is the group's partner in the production of oil from Block 26.

The additional sanctions prevent Gulfsands from engaging in activities that it said include “funding activities, connected with the production, delivery or sale of crude oil from its Block 26 fields.”

Gulfsands said its directors have been advised that “these restrictions constitute grounds to invoke the force majeure provisions of the PSC and the Group has now given notice accordingly.”

Emerald Energy PLC, Gulfsands’ 50% partner in Block 26, also agreed to the issuing of the declaration of force majeure and to it being binding under the PSC. Emerald is a wholly owned subsidiary of China Petroleum & Chemical Corp. (Sinopec).

“Based upon preliminary indications from GPC, the Syrian state is prepared to accept this notice of force majeure,” Gulfsands said, adding that “the PSC will not be terminated and the group’s rights under the PSC will be preserved.”

Meanwhile, according to Gulfsands, “the Syrian state intends, during the pendency of the force majeure period, to produce oil from Block 26, at its own cost and using its own resources, as the state deems circumstances to require.”

Last week, Total SA said it is suspending its operations in Syria in line with recently tightened sanctions by the European Union that indirectly target its local partner, Deir Ez Zor Petroleum Corp. (OGJ Online, Dec. 7, 2011).

Total’s decision followed that of Royal Dutch Shell PLC, which also announced plans to pull out of Syria following the EU’s imposition of tougher sanctions against the regime of the country's embattled President Bashar Al-Assad (OGJ Online, Dec. 2, 2011).

Contact Eric Watkins at hippalus@yahoo.com.

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