By Taylor Luck

AMMAN – Jordan’s supply of Egyptian gas was cut off by a blast in Sinai early Monday, as ongoing instability in Egypt threatened to plunge the Kingdom into what experts are calling an emerging “energy crisis”.

The blast was the ninth act of sabotage on the Arab Gas Pipeline this month and the second in less than a week.

“Gas supplies were stopped completely this morning, and we have yet to hear from the Egyptian side when they will return,” Ministry of Energy and Mineral Resources Secretary General Farouq Hiyari told The Jordan Times.

The attack cast doubt over the reliability of Egyptian gas supplies, which the Kingdom relies on for over 80 per cent of its electricity needs.

The two explosions this week occurred despite previous assurances from Cairo that the recent arrest of several jihadists allegedly behind the series of attacks, along with an increased military presence in the peninsula, would ensure the supply’s stability.

Sources at GASCO, one of two Egyptian firms that oversee the 400-kilometre pipeline, said the “extensive” damages caused by the blast may take over one week to repair.

With yesterday’s disruption, the Kingdom’s power plants will revert to their heavy fuel oil and diesel reserves, at a cost of some JD3 million per day.

The Egyptian ministry of petrol, which recently announced that it has amended the price of gas pumped to Jordan, declined to comment on the incident.

The blast came hours before the opening of polling stations in Egypt’s first legislative elections in the post-Mubarak era and amidst ongoing protests against Cairo’s military-led government.

Multiple disruptions in Egyptian gas supplies have ballooned the budget deficit and pushed the national energy bill to record highs, over JD1 billion.

Jordanian energy officials are currently working to secure additional fossil fuel sources, including natural gas from Iraq and liquid gas from Arabian Gulf countries, with plans in place to construct a terminal in the Red Sea Port of Aqaba by 2013.

Despite the renewed push for alternative energy sources, officials estimate that it will take over two years for any new gas agreement to come into effect due to infrastructure requirements.

Amman’s drive for new energy markets comes as efforts to bridge a five-year “gap” ahead of the development of local energy sources including oil shale, wind and nuclear power.

Jordan currently imports 98 per cent of its energy needs at a cost of 23 per cent of the gross domestic product.