TALLINN - Estonian energy group Eesti Energia will soon be taking its expertise in producing electricity from shale oil to the Middle Eastern nation of Jordan. The company is to start studying opportunities for the production of electricity from oil shale based upon agreement with the Jordanian government.
Last November a subsidiary of Eesti Energia, Oil Shale Energy of Jordan, signed a joint letter of intent under which the Estonian company acquired exclusive rights to study one third of Jordan's 300 million tons of the reserves situated in the El Lajun oil shale basin. Tallinn Technical University and Eesti Energia later signed an agreement on a feasibility study for the construction of a shale oil facility in Jordan.
Eesti Energia is currently carrying out studies in Jordan in order to determine what opportunities thre are for recovery of oil from that country's oil shale reserves. Board chairman Sandor Liive said that the Jordanian side is waiting for Estonia's assessment on the preliminary conditions for the construction of an oil-shale fueled electric power plant in Jordan, and for the timetable for electricity generation.
Liive said it should become clear in the next six months as to whether there is any sense in going ahead with preparations on the electricity generation project. The Jordanian side is offering Eesti Energia an exclusive contract for the development of the project. The offer includes defined quantities of oil shale reserves, on which basis it would then be possible to draw up the full electricity generation project, he said.
Liive added that the Jordanian offer was worth consideration, but that the role of Eesti Energia could only be in drawing up the project or heading the project in the development phase. Eesti Energia is not planning any million euro investments in Jordan, Liive said, and that if an investment decision for the construction of a power plant is made, investors and banks must be brought in.
In the first half of 2008 Eesti Energia is hoping to have completed studies that would indicate the feasibility of continuing with the project.
Eesti Energia and its Jordanian partner had earlier announced their intention to start the operations of the oil shale facility in 2010.
Oil shale has been a major source of energy in Estonia for decades, and is Estonia's primary mineral resource. "Oil shale" is not typically shale and doesn't contain oil, though; rather, it is a rock known as "marl" containing organic compounds like kerogen, reports the Econbrowser Web site. When heated to high temperatures, an oil-like substance is obtained, which can be refined to produce a transportation fuel.
The fact that large quantities of heat are required to obtain a usable fuel from the rock means that this is a far less efficient source of energy than conventional oil, and the refining process itself leaves behind many environmentally unfriendly byproducts.