There are extremely large proven and exploitable reserves of oil shale in the central and north-western regions of the country. The proved amount of oil shale in place is reported by the WEC Member Committee to be 40 billion tons; proved recoverable reserves of shale oil are put at 4 billion tons, with estimated additional reserves of 20 billion tons.
Jordanian shales are generally of quite good quality, with relatively low ash and moisture content.
Gross calorific value (7.5 MJ/kg) and oil yield (8-12%) are on a par with those of western Colorado (USA) shale; however, Jordanian shale has exceptionally high sulphur content (up to 9% by weight of the organic content).
The reserves are exploitable by opencast mining and are easily accessible.For several years the Ministry of Energy and Mineral Resources (MEMR) has been in contact with a number of companies with a view to reaching an acceptable agreement for constructing a shale-fired private power station and for the production of shale oil by retorting.
International companies have been invited to carry out feasibility studies and to submit their offers to MEMR.
The eventual exploitation of what is Jordan's only substantial fossil fuel resource to produce liquid fuels and/or electricity, together with chemicals and building materials, would be favoured by three factors - the high organic-matter content of Jordanian oil shale, the suitability of the deposits for surface-mining and their location near potential consumers (i.e. phosphate mines, potash and cement works).
Oil Shale (Bituminous Marl) refers to sedimentary rocks mostly carbonates to chalk marl and shale contain immature organic matters, when it is heated to above 500°C, it produces oil and gas.
The Jordanian oil shale are naturally bituminous marls of varying shade of brown, grey or black. The investigations of the potential of bituminous rocks as a possible source for producing oil by retorting or for generating electricity by direct combustion is of first priority for Jordan.Oil shale is the major indigenous fossil-fuel in Jordan: its predicted reserves, of about 5 x 1010 tons, should be sufficient to satisfy Jordan's energy-requirements for several centuries.
Using the oil shale as the input fuel, a multipurpose production process (i.e. retorting, electricity generation, thermal water-desalination, chemicals production as well as mineral extraction) could achieve high utilization-factors of both its chemical and energy potentials.
In the long-term, oil shale is the only indigenous energy resource that could reduce Jordan's dependence on imported crude oil and hence ease the pressure on the national economy.
The conversion of oil shale into a liquid or gaseous fuel and raw materials will be of decisive importance in attempts to secure the future of energy supplies.
So national efforts devoted to the exploration for, and harnessing more economically, this energy resource, while limiting the associated adverse environmental impacts, should be accelerated.
Until a few years ago the development of Jordan's oil shale reserves would have been economically unviable because of the high extraction and processing costs of shale oil.
However, a breakthrough in oil-from-shale technology has made the extraction and processing costs of shale oil competitive with conventional crude oil, particularly when taking into account the cost of exploration for conventional oil.
The economic benefits for Jordan's economy and its balance of payments make the development of shale oil worthwhile.
This will enable Jordan to, eventually, become self-sufficient in oil and to recoup its investment within an estimated period of 8-10 years.
It will also save Jordan's balance of payments an estimated $1.622 bn, being Jordan's projected oil import bill in 2010. There will also be the added bonus that Jordan could become a net exporter of shale oil.
This will enhance Jordan's oil security well into the next century.
Geological Setting :
Oilshale deposited mostly within the lower part of the Muwaqqar Chalk Marl Formation (Campanian-Maestrichtian). The Formation consists of limestone, marl, shales and phosphates.
There are 23 known surface and near surface deposits, eight of which namely El-Lajjun, Sultani, Jurf Ed-Darawish, Attarat Um El-Ghudran, Wadi Maghar, Siwaga, Khan El-Zabib and El-Thamad were investigated in different levels.
The major deposits of commercial scale interest are located south of Amman in central Jordan and are easily accessible from the desert highway between Amman and Aqaba.
These are: -El–Lajjun is located at about 100 kms south of Amman, between Qatrana and Karak city.Sultani is located at about 115kms south of Amman just adjacent to the desert highway.Jurf Ed- Darawish is located 145kms south of Amman and near Jurf Ed*Darawish town.Attarat Umm Ghudran is located approximately 35 kms east of Qatrana.Wadi El Maghar is located approximately 40 kms south east of Qatrana.El-Thamad is located 45km south of the capital Amman.