DAMASCUS, Syria, March 14 (UPI) -- Preparations are set for Damascus to start auctioning exploration rights for development of offshore oil reserves, the Syrian oil minister said.
Damascus aims to put an end to its declining crude production capabilities. Production in Syria peaked in the 1990s and industry estimates state the country's existing reserves will run dry within 20 years.
Syrian Oil Minister Sufian Alao told Bloomberg News that everything was ready to start auctions for Mediterranean blocks by the end of March.
"All documents are ready and we will start notifying the qualified companies soon," he said.
Italian energy company Eni, French supermajor Total and China National Petroleum Corp. were among the 10 foreign companies that submitted bids to develop Syria's offshore reserves last year.
Alao said many of the bids overlapped and Damascus wanted to see them improve their conditions before moving forward with awards.
The minister said Damascus wants to keep production stable at around 386,000 barrels of crude per day with the help of the new foreign investments.
Three blocks, covering more than 1,900 square miles, will go to auction.