Traditionally, the mainstay of Syria's economy was the textile industry, with cotton serving as the cash crop and the number one export of the region. In recent years however, the petroleum industry has grown profitable and quickly bypassed the textile sector. Much of this occurred in the late twentieth century as a result of the growing demand for fossil fuels in developed nations.
Today, petroleum is by far the most important natural resource in Syria. Oil accounts for over half of the nation's total exports. The main producer of oil in Syria is the al-Furat Petroleum Company, which is jointly owned by the Syrian Petroleum Company, PetroCanada and Shell. The fields owned by the al-Furat Petroleum Company are mainly located in the northeastern region of the country. Important oil fields owned by the Syrian Petroleum Company include al-Thayyem, Omar, Omar North, Suwaidiyah, Jibsah, Karatchuk and Rumailan. Major oil fields owned by other companies in Syria include Qahar, Tanak, Azraq, Maleh, Sijan and Jafra.
In recent years, the production of petroleum and oil shale in Syria has begun to decline. This is a result of the most economical reserves being overused in the first several years following the discovery of Syria's reserves. With the continued depletion of Syria's oil reserves, the nation has begun to transition to exporting natural gas, which is still quite abundant and economical to retrieve. Additionally, the Syrian government seeks to retain the economic viability of the petroleum industry by investing in new technologies and the continued exploration for additional supplies of petroleum.