by Taylor Luck | Jan 04,2012 | 23:51

AMMAN — Jordan and Qatar formed a joint technical committee on Tuesday as the Kingdom moved one step closer towards easing its reliance on Egyptian gas.

A “positive” meeting was held between Minister of Energy and Mineral Resources Qutaiba Abu Qura and his Qatari counterpart Mohammed Ben Saleh Al Sada in Doha during which the two sides explored the possibility of supplying the Kingdom with liquefied and natural gas, according to the ministry.

During the meeting, the two sides looked into a proposed plan of constructing a multimillion-dollar offshore gas terminal in the Port of Aqaba and a series of reception terminals in the Kingdom by 2013 in order for Jordan to receive liquefied gas.

According to a ministry source, yesterday’s advanced talks included the technical and financial feasibility of supplying Jordan with liquefied gas. He added that the meeting left both sides believing that a gas deal between Amman and Doha is “within reach”.

Securing additional energy sources has become a priority for Jordan, which is looking to ease its dependence on Egyptian gas, the target of 10 separate acts of sabotage in the Sinai Peninsula in 2011.

Despite the recent “accelerated” talks with Doha, officials say it will take up to three years for the Kingdom to benefit from any new energy deal due to infrastructure requirements.

Yesterday’s meeting came amidst increased calls by Jordanian officials to ensure protection of the Arab Gas Pipeline, with Minister of Transport Alaa Batayneh reiterating to Egyptian Prime Minister Kamal Ganzouri on Sunday Amman’s demands for Cairo to better secure supplies, which the country relies on for over 80 per cent of its electricity needs.

According to Minister of State for Media Affairs and Communications Rakan Majali, Amman has recently offered Cairo technical and logistical support to better safeguard the 400-kilometre pipeline, an offer the Egyptian government refused.

Multiple disruptions in supplies combined with diplomatic wrangling over an amended gas agreement between Amman and Cairo forced the Kingdom’s power plants to rely on diesel and heavy fuel oil for much of 2011, pushing the national energy bill to a record high JD4 billion.

Despite sealing an amended gas agreement in Cairo late last month, which raised gas prices from less than $2 to some $6 per 1,000 cubic feet, doubts remain among Jordanian officials over Egypt’s ability and political will to protect the gas line, which also supplies Israel.

Observers say the insecurity of Egyptian gas has transformed energy independence from a policy issue to a matter of national security for Jordan, which imports 98 per cent of its energy needs.