By Taylor Luck

AMMAN – Jordan is set to ratify a “landmark” oil shale deal today, a senior energy official said on Monday.

The Cabinet is expected to approve an agreement for the exploration and production of oil shale reached by the Natural Resource Authority (NRA) and Estonian firm Eesti Energia, Minister of Energy and Mineral Resources Khalid Irani told The Jordan Times yesterday.

“This is a very strategic and very important deal for Jordan,” he said on the sidelines of a power quality conference, adding that the deal is expected to be officially signed in a ceremony next month in the presence of Estonian President Toomas Hendrik Ilves.

The project, estimated to cost $6 billion, entails the development of full-scale oil shale extraction and retorting in a 30-square-kilometre concession area in Al Attarat in the central region, NRA Director Maher Hijazeen told The Jordan Times previously.

The NRA expects extraction and retorting activities to reach full capacity, with a potential output of 36,000 barrels of oil daily, within the next eight years.

Eesti Energia previously conducted a two-year feasibility study indicating that one of the Kingdom’s two dozen locations rich in oil shale deposits has the potential to produce over 30,000 barrels a day.

Last year, the government contracted the Royal Dutch Shell Oil Company to utilise the in situ extraction of oil shale in the eastern parts of the Kingdom, where shale deposits are found at deep levels.

There are 23 known surface and near-surface shale deposits and previous NRA studies have revealed that 40 billion tonnes of oil shale exist at 21 sites concentrated near the Yarmouk River, Buweida, Beit Ras, Rweished, Karak, Madaba and Maan.

The Kingdom’s national energy strategy calls for electricity produced from the resource to account for 14 per cent of Jordan’s energy mix within the next decade.

Also in today’s session, the Cabinet is expected to consider a proposal by Canadian firm Ammonite Energy for oil exploration in the Jafr area, a 19,156-square-kilometre concession area east of the Jordan River.

The Hunt Oil Company previously dug two wells in Al Jafr area in 1989, but neither yielded productive oil discoveries, according to the authority.