By Taylor Luck

AMMAN – The Kingdom’s first oil field may lie near the eastern city of Azraq, according to experts as geologists urged the government to step up exploration activities in the area.

According to the Jordan Geologists Association (JGA), the concession field east of Azraq is promising for the presence of fossil fuels.

Material evidence of the site’s potential – including source rock, trap structures and “positive” studies carried out by the Natural Resource Authority in 1983 – has led geologists to believe that Azraq may become the Kingdom’s first oil field.

JGA President Bahjat Aladwan urged the government to give the area, located some 70 kilometres east of Amman, priority status for further development.

“All we need is to dig one well to determine if the area is favourable or not,” Aladwan told The Jordan Times.

Sonoran Energy, the Indian firm which has been conducting exploration activities in the area, may withdraw from the concession for failing to complete drilling as required by a product-sharing agreement, according to the JGA.

Should Sonoran fail to complete its commitments by the end of a three-month grace period in mid-August and withdraw from the concession, the JGA is pressing the government to make the project a strictly public venture.

“If oil is discovered, it would all be owned by the government. We have the know-how to finish the job and it is worth a shot,” Aladwan said.

Sonoran has been working in the 11,250-square-kilometre concession area, located near the Kingdom’s border with Saudi Arabia, for over three years.

Through its exploration activities, the firm has estimated that the area has the potential to produce over one million barrels of oil. Company representatives could not be reached for comment.

Energy officials in Amman are currently exploring alternatives to address a five-year “gap” ahead of the development of local energy sources including solar, wind, oil shale and nuclear power.

The push for alternative energy sources has been intensified by the recent instability of natural gas supplies from Egypt, which the Kingdom relies upon for 80 per cent of its electricity needs.

The Kingdom currently imports 97 per cent of its energy needs at a cost of one-fifth of the gross domestic product.