MMAN — Jordan and Qatar held further talks on a potential gas deal on Wednesday, as part of ongoing efforts to wean the Kingdom off of unstable Egyptian gas supplies.

Minister of Energy and Mineral Resources Qutaiba Abu Qura and Qatari Ambassador Zayed Bin Saeed Rashid Al Khayarin discussed the possibility of the Gulf state providing the Kingdom with liquid gas using a freighter in the Port of Aqaba — a step viewed by energy officials as a short-term solution to the Kingdom’s energy woes.

According to the Jordan News Agency, Petra, the two officials also reviewed a January meeting between Abu Qura and Qatari Energy Minister Mohammed Bin Saleh Al Sada in Doha, which marked the launch of “advanced talks” between Amman and Doha over a liquid gas deal.

Under the proposed deal, liquid gas would be delivered to a freighter rented at a cost of around $100,000 day — a figure officials say will be lower than the country’s current reliance on heavy oil at international prices.

According to energy officials, Jordan and Qatar would implement the project in parallel with the construction of a permanent liquid gas terminal at the Red Sea port, which the ministry estimates will take up to two years to complete.

Wednesday’s meeting came two days after a Sinai blast that marked the 14th attack on the Arab Gas Pipeline in almost a year and another setback to the supply of the Kingdom’s primary energy source.

According to Jordanian energy officials, the blast “indefinitely” delayed the return of Egyptian gas supplies, which have been cut since a similar act of sabotage earlier this month and have yet to resume in full after being reduced nearly a year ago.

The series of disruptions in Egyptian gas, which the Kingdom relies upon for 80 per cent of its electricity needs, cost Jordan JD1 billion in 2011 and is forecast to cost JD1.7 billion this year.

In the face of a national energy bill expected to exceed JD4 billion, the government announced a controversial 9 per cent rise in electricity tariffs in January, but later suspended it due to public pressure.

The insecurity of Egyptian gas has prompted a new drive by officials to find new energy sources and talks are also under way with Iraq over a potential gas deal.

Observers say the ongoing unreliability of Egyptian gas has elevated energy independence from a policy issue to a matter of national security for Jordan, which imports 98 per cent of its energy needs at a cost of over one-fifth of its gross domestic product.