by Omar Obeidat | Apr 23, 2013 | 23:43

AMMAN –– The uninterrupted flow of gas supplies from Egypt, albeit below the original agreed on amounts, cut down the Kingdom’s oil import bill by JD172 million in the first two months of 2013.

According to a report on Jordan’s external trade, released Monday by the Department of Statistics (DoS), the country’s oil imports during January and February of this year dropped by 20.9 per cent to JD650.5 million from JD822.7 million during the same period of 2012.

Energy expert Ahmad Hiasat attributed the “tangible” decline in the oil bill to the return of regular supply of natural gas from Egypt, which is used for the generation of electricity.

A series of sabotage attacks targeting the Arab Gas Pipeline that supplies Jordan with gas following the ouster of former Egyptian president Hosni Mubarak in February 2011 brought pumping to a near standstill for some eighteen months, while in October of 2012 Egyptian authorities suspended supplies to the Kingdom in order to cover a spike in domestic energy demand.

Hiasat, former chairman of the Jordan Electricity Regulatory Commission, explained to The Jordan Times that the drop in Egyptian gas supplies forced Jordan onto much more expensive heavy oil imports for power generation, as Egyptian gas used to over 80 per cent of Jordan’s electricity generation needs.

Heavy fuel imports were the main reason for the ballooning energy bill that reached JD4.7 billion by the end of 2012, he added.

“Over the past four months, the pumping of gas has returned to almost 120 million cubic feet a day,” Hiasat said, indicating that the cost of generating power by heavy oil is four-fold higher than using natural gas.

The gas agreement between Amman and Cairo entails pumping 240 million cubic feet per day.

DoS report also showed that the Kingdom’s trade deficit –– which shows the amount by which the cost of the country’s imports exceeds the value of its exports –– narrowed by 2.9 per cent during the January-February period of this year to JD1.53 billion at current prices compared with JD1.57 billion recorded in the same period of 2012.

The DoS noted that the coverage ratio of total exports to imports has increased to 36.4 per cent from 35.1 per cent.

The Kingdom’s exports during the first two months of the year increased by 2.5 per cent from JD853.9 million in the January-February period of last year to JD875.1 million, while imports dropped slightly from JD2.43 billion to JD2.4 billion, according to the statistics.