After years of its general expansion all through most areas that are no longer controlled by the Syrian regime, “gasoline burners” in the towns of Northern and Eastern Aleppo countryside have gone through a new developmental stage whereby they have transformed into major gasoline stations that constitute the main sources and suppliers of fuel. Modern equipment has been introduced for the refinement processes, counters have been used to assist sales procedures, and very large quantities of fuel have been constantly supplied for that purpose.
The forty-year-old trader Ahmad Arshafi considers oil refining in the region as an “autonomous profitable business” which was created to overcome “the hardships of life and the way the northern and eastern countryside have been deprived from the fuel that comes from areas controlled by the regime” which urged people to work hard so as to adequately supply the region with petrol and diesel.
The stations are available all along the roads connecting the towns of the north of Aleppo and are widely scattered on the main roads linking Azaz and the cities of al-Bab and Jarabulus and their countryside.
Crude Oil Comes from the “SDF” and the Refined from “the liberated” Areas
The eastern regions are considered to be the main fuel distributers despite the fact that most of them are still under the control of the “Islamic State” in the cities of Raqqa and Deir ez-Zor. Fuel goes through various areas of control, starting from the ‘Islamic state’ organization, moving to the areas controlled by the Syrian Democratic Forces, and reaching the areas that are controlled by the Syrian opposition factions.
Ghandoura and Bir Al-Kusah village in the south of the city of Jarabulus near the city of Manbij in Eastern Aleppo countryside are considered to be the first distributers of fuel in the countryside of Aleppo. Arshafi, the trader, says that it has become a main center where tanks and large reservoirs, coming from the areas controlled by the ‘Islamic state’, are collected to be transferred later to the stations installed across the liberated North of Aleppo by traders working in this “business”.
He points out, in his interview with Enab Baladi, to the price of transporting one barrel. He says that it varies between two thousand and three thousand Syrian pounds per barrel (the dollar corresponds to 550 Syrian pounds), and the price sometimes increases depending on the state of the road the trucks are to take.
Commerce in the area of Ghandoura does not simply depend on fuel, but the region has become a “free market” for the towns of the Northern countryside of Aleppo. The reconstruction process relied on this area’s basic materials of plaster and sand thanks to the availability of building materials quarries in it.
The “local gasoline burner” consists of several reservoirs through which crude oil is refined following four to ten stages, and their prices vary according to the quality of steel used to manufacture them on the one hand and the quantity that it might contain on the other hand.
According to Archafi, the price of the entire burner which is made up of ten barrels of mercuric “steel” is about 150 thousand Syrian pounds, while the reservoirs manufactured from standard steel are less expensive and their price ranges from 100 thousand Syrian pounds or sometimes less.
The electronic counters that have been recently introduced by fuel traders to their “stations” ranges from $ 200 to $ 1,000 depending on the quality of product.
Different Varieties and Discharge is in Azaz and Afrin
Fuel is placed in a large reservoir depending on the quantity to be refined, and the fire is set under it to high degrees until the boiling temperature.
The trader Hamadou al-Hussein says that “at every stage of the refining process, a specific substance is extracted from fuel. The first stage produces only gas that immediately dissolves into the air. Gasoline and petrol are to be extracted in the second stage. At the last stage there is gasoil that needs high temperatures up to 400 Celsius”.
As it starts to boil, fuel passes through two tubes to cool down the gasoline before it is poured into the final container, to be transported then to tanks equipped with counters.
Hussein explained to Enab Baladi that “the price of one barrel of fuel is 30 thousand Syrian pounds, about 20% of which evaporates during the refining process, to be sold in the last stages for prices that range from 40 thousand to 50 thousand Syrian pounds and sometimes rise to 60 thousand per barrel in case the main roads were cut off in the eastern countryside of the city of Aleppo. ”
“This business is very risky because of the temperature is very high and so is the pressure of fuel, and our profit depends on the quantity of water in crude oil.”
According to Hussein, the major consumers of these stations are concentrated in the towns of Northern Aleppo that the “Islamic State” has recently left, especially the city of Azaz which is witnessing a significant rise in its prices, besides exporting it to the area of Afrin controlled by the ” Kurdish People’s Protection Units”, down to the areas controlled by the Syrian opposition in the city of Idlib and Hama countryside.
Refined fuel is sold at a reasonable price. The price of one liter of refined diesel ranges between 200 and 225 Syrian pounds, and the same price range applies for gasoline and petrol.
“Refined diesel is a special case”, the trader says referring to different varieties of diesel, including “Hazel, yellow and red, depending on the temperature that the fuel is exposed to, and the process of purification in the filters attached to the machines.”