(MENAFN - Jordan Times) Jordan and China have taken the first steps towards building the world's second-largest oil shale power plant, energy officials announced, just days after a similar joint project between the Kingdom and an Estonian firm was unveiled.
The Chinese-owned firm Lejjun Oil Shale Investments and the National Electric Power Company (NEPCO) have reached an agreement to construct a 900-megawatt (MW) oil shale thermal-fired power station in Lejjun, some 100 kilometres south of Amman, according to the Ministry of Energy and Mineral Resources.
The plant, expected to cost up to 1.25 billion, is to be among the largest power stations in the world to rely on oil shale, second only to the Estonian Nova plants, which generate a combined 2,300MW.
Under a memorandum of understanding signed by NEPCO and the Chinese firm on Sunday, Lejjun will embark on a six-month economic feasibility study to determine construction costs and projected electricity tariffs.
If deemed feasible, the station would become the Kingdom's second oil shale power plant, with plans in place with the Estonian firm Eesti Energia to construct a 700MW station in the central region by 2016.
According to the ministry, the plant will utilise Lejjun's oil shale deposits, which under a separate project by a British firm are to yield up to 19,000 barrels of shale oil per day by 2017.
The project is part of energy officials' push to utilise Jordan's oil shale reserves - estimated to be the third-largest in the world - to make shale-fuelled power account for 14 per cent of Jordan's energy mix by the end of the decade.
The agreement comes against the backdrop of a visit by a Chinese trade delegation to the Kingdom headed by Vice Minister of Commerce Zhong Shan, which met with Minister of Energy and Mineral Resources Qutaiba Abu Qura on Monday to explore investment opportunities in the Kingdom's energy sector.
During the one-hour meeting, the two sides discussed the application of Chinese expertise in solar technology in the Kingdom, home to some of the highest solar radiation rates in the world.
The oil shale drive comes as Amman searches for alternatives to Egyptian natural gas, which the Kingdom relies on for 88 per cent of its electricity generation needs and which has been the target of a string of acts of sabotage.
The most recent attack, which marked the seventh act of sabotage on the Arab Gas Pipeline this year, forced the Kingdom's power plants to tap into their heavy fuel oil and diesel reserves earlier this month at a cost of JD3 million a day.
Following repairs on the pipeline, Cairo resumed pumping at "experimental" levels late Friday, well below the 150 million cubic feet Jordan received prior to the blast.
The Kingdom currently relies on energy imports for 98 per cent of its electricity generation needs at a cost of 23 per cent of the gross domestic product.