by Taylor Luck | Feb 07,2012 | 22:55
A fire is seen on a gas pipeline in the town of Al Arish, North of Sinai on Sunday. The pipeline, which supplies gas to Jordan and Israel, has come under attack at least 12 times since Egyptian resident Hosni Mubarak was toppled in 2011 (Reuters photo)

AMMAN — Officials have formed a consortium to secure alternatives to Egyptian gas as part of a series of measures to avert what they describe as an emerging energy crisis, a minister said on Monday.

According to Minister of Energy and Mineral Resources Qutaiba Abu Qura, the government formed a consortium late last month to find solutions to the import of liquid gas from the Arab Gulf, identified by officials as key to weaning the country off of unreliable Egyptian gas supplies.

“We are accelerating our efforts to locate alternative energy sources in the near-term and long-term,” Abu Qura told The Jordan Times.

According to officials, the consortium will examine ways to accelerate the import of Qatari gas, which Abu Qura described as the “most promising” among Jordan’s energy options.

With a joint technical team expected to release its recommendations over the feasibility of the project next month, initial projections indicate that the scheme requires several million dollars in up-front investment costs and the construction of a terminal in the Port of Aqaba.

Abu Qura added that Amman is pursuing in parallel the import of natural gas from Iraq, noting that Baghdad has plans in place to construct a regional pipeline that would serve Jordan within the next five years.

With ongoing cuts in Egypt gas supplies costing the Kingdom up to JD5 million per day, officials admit Jordan “cannot afford” the two-to-five year period to secure additional energy sources.

“We are examining ways to speed up the time needed for these projects,” Abu Qura said.

The renewed push for alternative energy sources comes on the backdrop of a Sinai blast on Sunday which marked the twelfth act of sabotage on the Arab Gas Pipeline in less than a year.

The unreliability of Egyptian gas supplies, which have yet to recover from a previous attack in November, have forced the Kingdom’s power plants to use costlier heavy fuel and diesel reserves, pushing the National Electric Power Company’s generation costs to 197 fils per kilowatt hour, which is over three times the rate it charges the majority of households.

In the face of rising generation costs, the government unveiled a new electricity tariff system last week raising rates by 9 per cent on a gradual scale officials say is designed to ensure excessive consumers carry the bulk of the increased costs.

Officials refuse to rule out future raises in electricity tariffs should the cut in gas supplies continues.