by Taylor Luck | Nov 03, 2012 | 22:04

AMMAN — Jordan is set to finalise a deal by the end of year with an Estonian-Malaysian firm to build the region’s first oil shale plant, officials revealed on Saturday, in what is being billed as a critical step towards the country’s energy independence.

According to Minister of Finance Suleiman Hafez, Amman is set to seal the agreement with Enerfit Energy by December to construct a 450-megawatt (MW) oil shale-fired thermal station in central Jordan — the first power station fuelled by the alternative energy resource in the region.

The power station, which is set to meet 16 per cent of the country’s 3,000MW electricity demand, is expected to come on-line by 2016.

“This agreement will be one of the biggest steps towards the country’s energy independence,” Hafez said during a press round-table hosted by Prime Minister Abdullah Ensour in Amman on Saturday.

Ministry of Energy and Mineral Resources officials say the plant is set to shave some of the country’s national energy bill, which due to rising oil prices and ongoing cuts in Egyptian gas supplies is expected to surpass JD4 billion by the end of the year.

Under the landmark deal, which has been over two years in the making, Enerfit is set to construct the plant in the central region of Al Attarat in order to take advantage of a parallel project where the firm hopes to produce up to 38,000 barrels of shale oil per day.

The question of energy independence has emerged as an issue of national security for Jordan, which Ensour stressed is set to spend JD1.7 billion in energy subsidies in 2012 alone.

The power plant comes as the first in a series of projects to tap Jordan’s estimated 40-billion-tonne oil shale reserves, which include an initiative to extract 15,000 barrels per day in Karak and the construction of a second, 900MW plant, by the end of the decade.

Energy officials have prioritised the resource as key to weaning the country off energy imports, which cost Jordan over one-fourth of its gross domestic product annually.