by Raed Omari | Jun 24, 2012

AMMAN — The Senate on Sunday endorsed the 2010 draft gas exploration agreement signed between the government, the National Petroleum Company and BP Exploration Operating Company Limited as referred from the Lower House.

The agreement, as stated in its mandating reasons, aims at improving the Risheh gas field in the east of the Kingdom — the country’s largest known field — to cover local needs of gas and export the surplus.

In its decision, the Senate said the pricing mechanism stipulated in the draft agreement was in line with international standards and that there was no difference between the English version of the deal and its translation into Arabic, the Jordan News Agency, Petra, reported.

Several parties opposing the deal have charged that there were several differences between the English and Arabic versions of the agreement.

The Senate also noted that the deal will be subject to Jordanian laws and the provision stipulating that possible disputes between the government and the British investor be looked into by the International Chamber of Commerce is a worldwide norm.

Amman Deputy Salah Al-Din Sabra was leading a move to terminate the draft agreement, which he has described as an “unfair and shameless sale of the country’s assets”.

In interviews with local news websites, Sabra and several natural gas experts alleged that the greatest percentage of the projected profits would go to BP and that Jordan would buy natural gas from the British firm at international prices.

Under the agreement signed between the government and BP in October 2009, the British firm will spend three to four years exploring a plot measuring around 7,000 square kilometres along the Jordanian-Iraqi border, at an estimated cost of $237 million.

If proven economically feasible, BP will then provide $8-10 billion in investment in hopes of extracting 330 million cubic feet (mcf) of gas from the field per day, with the potential to produce up to one billion cubic feet daily.

Discovered in 1989, the Risheh gas field has been producing around 18mcf of natural gas daily over the last decade.

Recent discoveries have raised the existing 20 wells’ production to around 21mcf per day to fuel the Risheh Power Plant.

Also on Sunday, the Senate endorsed the Lower House’s amendments to the General Sales Tax Law, under which special taxes will be imposed on 12 luxury items, including perfumes, cosmetics, diamonds and other gemstones, musical instruments, mobile phones, pet food and leather garments.