Syrian offshore gas exploration will begin in early 2019, the country’s oil minister said, Syrian newspaper al-Watan reported on Dec. 13.

Oil and mineral resources Minister Ali Ghanem said contracts for five offshore blocks had been signed with “friendly countries”. The report did not say which countries or companies were involved.

He also said Syria has an estimated 1,250 billion cubic meters of offshore gas reserves. The report did not say when or how the Syrian government had appraised the reserves.

In 2013, Russian energy firm Soyuzneftegaz signed the first offshore exploration contract with Syria for Block 2. But in 2015, it said it would not go ahead with the project because of Syria’s conflict—now in its seventh year.

In comments made to the Syrian parliament on Dec. 12 and reported by al-Watan on Dec. 13, Ghanem said Syria aims to produce 19 million cubic meters a day (cu. m/d) of gas by the end of 2018 and 24.5 million cu. m/d by the end of 2019.

He also said Syria aims to produce 70,000 barrels per day (bbl/d) of oil by the end of 2018 and 219,000 bbl/d by the end of 2019.

The war in Syria meant the government lost control of the majority of Syria’s onshore oil and gas fields, but many have been recaptured as a result of advances made against Islamic State in recent months.

This has enabled the government to produce more power.