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Wed 6 Mar 2013 10:38 AM

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Jordan eyes energy self-sufficiency by 2020

Energy Minister Alaa Batayneh looking to shale projects and renewable schemes to cut energy bill

Jordan eyes energy self-sufficiency by 2020

Jordan hopes that by developing gas and oil shale projects as well as renewable schemes, the country could be become energy self-sufficient or better by 2020, Energy Minister Alaa Batayneh said.

"Jordan is literally unexplored in a way that gives us a lot of hope," he told reporters in an interview on Tuesday.

"We have a lot of indigenous national resources that we are trying to move."

"We are pushing literally in every direction and the aim is to become reliant on national unexplored resources and become self reliant by 2020 at least," he added.

Jordan, which imports almost all its energy needs, has been hit hard by a plunge in cheap Egyptian gas supplies on which it relied for 80 percent of its 3,000 megawatt electricity generation.

Its annual energy bill has soared past $4 billion after it had to buy expensive diesel and heavy fuel on international markets, spurring new efforts to develop domestic resources.

These include $300 million solar and wind energy projects, some financed under a $5 billion Gulf fund, Batayneh said.

But longer term hopes are pinned on exploiting an estimated 70 billion tonnes of shale oil deposits that would rank Jordan sixth or seventh in global reserves and gas in the eastern Risha field being explored by BP that could yield up to 1 billion cubic feet per day, Batayneh said.

He said barter deals for cheap oil from Iraq before the 2003 US invasion meant Jordan had had little incentive to develop alternative energy sources or technologies.

The kingdom is now struggling to meet electricity demand, which is growing by more than 7 percent per year, due to a rising population and industrial expansion.

Batayneh said the game changers for Jordan would be a project led by Estonia's Enefit to finance, construct and operate a 430 megawatt oil shale fuel power station by the end of 2016 and output from the Risha gas field.

Along with the Estonian project, Royal Dutch Shell , has already invested $100 million to explore for oil shale in Jordan's eastern and northern regions.

BP has invested $260 million on the Risha field where it has recently dug a 3,000 metre deep well and has two more planned this year, Batayneh said.

"They are expecting anywhere between 300 million cubic feet per day up to one billion. If - and it's very important to say if - BP's projections materialise in 2020, we as Jordan could be a gas exporting country. Their program will not be commercially producing until 2020," Batayneh said.

Egyptian gas deliveries to Jordan before they were disrupted by Egypt's revolution and bottlenecks ran at about 253 million cubic feet per day.

Jordan was also working with Iraq to build a 1,000 km crude oil pipeline to export at least 1.5 million barrels per day of Iraqi crude through Aqaba, an alternative in the event of disruption in the Gulf.

The pipeline was a win-win scenario for both countries with Iraqi oil also suppling the country's sole refinery in Zarqa and transit fees helping Jordan's finances, Batayneh said.

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