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Iranian Oil Spills on Syria’s Shores: A Brief OSINT Overview of an Environmental Incident

By Wim Zwijnenburg

A mysterious incident occurred off the coast of Syria late June of this year. Local news reported that a sabotage action took place on underwater oil pipelines at the Baniyas oil terminal. Scarce information was available on what exactly happened and the resulting impact, yet the likely use of magnetic limpet mines and scuba divers indicate a state or state-sponsored sabotage operation. Footage of the exploded pipelines were disseminated on social media, while an item on Syrian television showed how the crude oil polluted the shores and local environment. In the meantime, the crisis with oil tankers in the Persian Gulf was already brewing, with alleged attacks on various oil tankers with limpet mines, and subsequent capture of the GRACE 1 Iranian tanker at Gibraltar by the United Kingdom, heading for Baniyas refinery with 2.1 million barrels of light crude oil. This incident would have also consequences for Syria, as the Baniyas oil refinery appears to be a crucial lifeline for the Syrian economy. In this article, we make a quick analysis using open-source information and satellite imagery from Planet Labs and Sentinel 2 satellites to show the marine pollution from the spill, subsequent tanker visits, and discuss potential wider environmental impact that could be unfolding as a result of the apparently sabotaged pipelines.

Baniyas Refinery

Syria’s Oil Economy

Syria’s oil and gas has always been a major source of income and import for domestic use. Prior to the ongoing civil war, the annual crude oil production in 2011 was roughly 400,000 barrels per day, according to the US Energy Information Administration, while also producing naphfta, jet kerosene, diesel, and fuel oil. The oil production took place in the fields of Deir ez Zor, Hasakah, with most of the gas being extracted from the fields of Hama. A …read more

From:: Bellingcat

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