Jordan's energy sector turns focus to private development and renewable resources

Dependent on imports and grappling with regional instability and major supply disruptions, Jordan’s energy sector has faced several challenging years. Rapid population growth, which includes the kingdom absorbing an estimated 1.3m Syrian refugees since 2011, has exacerbated existing water scarcity, especially in the northern region of Jordan.

These challenges have prompted the government to pursue new opportunities through private sector development, with private firms set to play an important role in delivering new water, oil shale, nuclear, and renewable energy projects. Jordan has become a regional leader and model for solar energy development, while authorities are reporting steady progress in flagship oil shale and nuclear power projects, in addition to the continuing Red Sea Dead Sea (RSDS) conveyance project, which is projected to significantly augment the water supply, introducing large-scale desalination activities to the water sector.

Meanwhile, electricity sector reforms, alongside a shift towards natural gas-fired electricity generation, have lowered the country’s fuel bill, creating space for investment in grid upgrades, which will be critical to long-term renewable and nuclear energy targets.

At A Glance

Jordan relies on oil, natural gas and coal imports to meet most of its energy needs, as it does not benefit from abundant crude oil and natural gas resources, aside from an estimated 70bn tonnes of oil shale resources that have yet to be exploited.

The Ministry of Energy and Mineral Resources (MEMR) reports that domestic oil production in the kingdom has dropped steadily in recent years, falling from 1000 tonnes in 2012 to 400 tonnes in 2016, while domestic natural gas production fell from 5.8bn cu feet to 4.1bn cu feet over the same period. Primary energy consumption has increased by 17.2% from 8.2m tonnes of oil equivalent (toe) in 2012 to 9.6m toe in 2016, while final energy consumption jumped by 19.2% between 2012 and 2016 to hit 6.4m toe. In terms of energy consumption as measured in gigawatt hours, this rose from 8090 GWh in 2004 to 16,843 GWh in 2016, according to figures from the National Electric Power Company (NEPCO).

Although the Arab Gas pipeline to Egypt had supplied Jordan with the majority of its import needs for a decade, geopolitical instability and supply disruptions since 2011 have all but eliminated gas imports from Egypt; according to the MEMR, Jordan did not import any natural gas from Egypt via the Arab Gas pipeline in 2016. Liquefied natural gas (LNG) imports from a recently launched LNG import terminal in Aqaba supplied roughly 4.1bn cu metres in the same year. Although it comprises a relatively small share of total energy imports, LNG accounts for between 85% and 90% of total electricity generation in Jordan.

Oversight

Jordan’s energy sector is overseen by a broad range of government bodies, including the MEMR, the Energy and Minerals Regulatory Commission (EMRC), NEPCO, the Jordan Atomic Energy Commission (JAEC), the Jordan Petroleum Refining Company (JPRC), the National Petroleum Company (NPC) and the Ministry of Water and Irrigation (MoWI). Established in 1984, the MEMR was restructured to expand its mandate in 2014. It now holds responsibility for comprehensive energy sector planning, negotiating power exchange agreements with neighbouring countries attracting international capital for investment in electricity generation, production of oil derivatives, oil and gas transportation, and local energy production. The EMRC was established in 2014, assuming regulatory functions for nuclear resources, natural resources and electricity.

Development Strategies

The government remains focused on reducing its energy bill and reaching energy independence. To achieve this, a host of public actors have moved to implement major energy infrastructure projects in recent years, increasingly in partnership with the private sector. The long-term energy development policy, the Master Strategy of the Energy Sector of Jordan (National Energy Strategy) 2007-20, calls for $18bn of private and public investment in domestic power projects to reduce energy import dependency from 96% to 60% by 2020.The National Energy Strategy targets the construction of renewable projects, an oil shale power plant and a nuclear reactor. The plan also introduces investor incentives, such as a 10-year income tax exemption for independent power producers (IPPs) and regulations for build-own-operate and build-operate-transfer (BOT) public-private partnerships (PPPs). In particular, the strategy seeks to reduce fuel and electricity subsidies, as these have constrained spending and weighed on macroeconomic growth in recent years.

Security & Diversity

The Jordan Economic Growth Plan (JEGP), unveiled in May 2017, has targeted 13% annual growth in the electricity and power sectors between 2018 and 2022. It also highlights PPPs as the preferred finance model for new renewable energy and water capture and efficiency projects. The JEGP aims to achieve sustainable energy security by increasing the contribution of domestic resources to the kingdom’s overall energy mix, in addition to implementing energy efficiency programmes.

Targets include tapping into and further developing conventional and renewable energy sources, such as oil shale and gas; oil market liberalisation; boosting strategic reserves of crude oil and derivatives; expanding Jordan’s sole petroleum refinery; increasing the use of natural gas in electricity and industries; maintaining NEPCO’s operational balance; and promoting energy conservation and efficiency. Nuclear power is not mentioned in the JEGP.

The National Green Growth Strategy was also unveiled in May 2017. It emphasises the importance of green energy development in reducing fiscal, economic and climate vulnerabilities. The strategy identifies three clusters as particularly important support mechanisms for employment and macroeconomic growth: a green growth corridor between Aqaba and Amman, smart urban transformation and rural resilience (see Economy chapter).

Utilities Reform

NEPCO was established in 1996 under General Electricity Law No. 10, replacing the Jordan Electricity Authority created in 1967.

Electricity Law No. 13/1999 created the Central Electricity Generation Company (CEGCO) and the Electricity Distribution Company (EDCO), splitting NEPCO’s functions between them. A public shareholding company until Law No. 13, NEPCO owned and operated all transmission, system operation, wholesale power purchase and sales transmission, IPP generation and fuel procurement activities.

Electricity Law No. 64/2002 liberalised Jordan’s electricity generation segment by establishing a regulatory commission, which was later absorbed by the EMRC. It was mandated to license businesses engaged in generation, transmission, and supply distribution and system operation, in addition to setting electricity tariffs. The law also opened the sector to private investment through IPPs, leading to an influx of new companies and projects.

Today a number of entities are active in generation, including the CEGCO, the Samra Electric Power Generating Company, AES Jordan Company, Qatraneh Electric Power Company, Amman Asia Electric Power Company, AES Levant Holdings BV Jordan and Jordan Wind Project Company. NEPCO continues to own and operate transmission and system operators in Jordan and is responsible for negotiating power purchase agreements for IPPs. It also manages interconnections with Egypt through a 400-KV single circuit transmission line crossing the Gulf of Aqaba, as well as a 400-KV single circuit transmission line that connects to the Syrian power system. NEPCO imported 334 GWh of electricity from Egypt in 2016.

Service Delivery

One of three distributors active in the kingdom, the Jordanian Electric Power Company is responsible for energy distribution in Amman and its surrounding area. The second, EDCO, was privatised and acquired by the Kingdom Electricity for Energy Investments Company (KEC) in 2007, and today covers roughly 60% of Jordan’s geographic area in southern rural areas and Aqaba. EDCO also owns a 55.4% stake in the kingdom’s oldest distributor, Irbid District Electricity Company (IDECO), after KEC acquired a stake in the company and transferred ownership of these shares to EDCO in 2007.

Established in 1957, IDECO is the only generation, transmission and distribution company that operates in northern Jordan, covering roughly 25.6% of the country’s geographic area, including the governorates of Mafraq, Irbid, Jerash and Ajloun. NEPCO reports that a total of 20,064 GWh of power was generated or imported in Jordan in 2016, a 2.3% increase over 2015, while domestic electricity production rose by 3.8% to hit 19,730 GWh. The Jordanian power system’s total capacity stood at 4419 MW in 2016, a 3.6% increase over 2015, with renewable energy accounting for 4.6% of total energy production.

“In addition to launching new renewable energy projects, Jordan should focus on increasing grid capacity and improving storage technology,” Hanna Zaghloul, CEO of Kawar Energy, told OBG. “Otherwise, the sector will never reach its full potential,” he added.

NEPCO Reforms

Rising electricity consumption and much-needed national grid upgrades led to unsustainable losses at NEPCO, reaching $1.4bn, or 10% of Jordan’s total budget in 2013. This sparked a series of sectoral reforms, including the gradual phasing out of costly fuel subsidies, which were estimated to cost the kingdom 2.8% of GDP in 2012.

In addition, electricity tariff adjustments were made: tariffs for major industries were reduced, while a framework for consumer tariffs to encourage power savings was introduced. The reforms have helped decrease electricity subsidies, estimated to cost around 5.5% of GDP in 2012, while supporting new renewable energy projects to help to cut power costs.

Gas Shift

Supported by the recent launch of new LNG import infrastructure, NEPCO has increasingly shifted its procurement strategy towards natural gas imports in a bid to reduce costly heavy fuel imports.

In July 2015 the Sheikh Sabah Al Ahmad LNG terminal in Aqaba was inaugurated, which connects to the Arab Gas pipeline and ships LNG north. This infrastructure plays a critical role in meeting increasing electricity demand while lowering the cost of NEPCO’s energy import bill. The terminal has since been operating at maximum capacity, pumping 350m cu feet of LNG per day. To meet surplus demand, NEPCO signed two short-term spot market contracts in 2016 with Royal Dutch Shell to supply 300m cu feet of LNG daily. In 2016 the terminal received 51 shipments of LNG, of which 41 were imported by NEPCO and a further 10 by the Egyptian Natural Gas Holding Company.

Coal & Gas

NEPCO reports that natural gas-fired electricity generation rose significantly by 80.6% to hit 16,639 GWh in 2016, from 9210 GWh in 2015. This sharp increase followed a seven-year low of 1296 GWh in 2014. Heavy fuel oil-powered electricity generation has fallen sharply over the same period, dropping from 7690 GWh in 2014 to 6644 GWh in 2015, and by a further 69.9% to 2001 GWh in 2016. Diesel-fuelled generation fell from 9168 GWh in 2014 to 163 GWh in 2016. Rising coal imports and lower global oil prices also offered cost relief to buyers. Crude oil imports fell by 15.2% to 2.97m tonnes in 2016, from 3.51m tonnes in 2015, while coal imports rose by 42.2% to hit 327,000 tonnes. In June 2016 the MEMR announced a deal had been signed with the Al Manaseer Group to build Jordan’s first coal-fuelled power plant in the Al-Qatrana region. The plant is projected to be completed by the end of 2018 and beyond providing energy to Al Manaseer’s nearby cement factory, it is part of the National Energy Strategy forecast under which coal will account for 5% of the total energy mix by 2025.

Pay-Off

Avoiding heavy fuel oils and increasing LNG and coal imports has paid dividends. According to MEMR figures, the cost of crude oil and oil product imports dropped by 34% to JD1.3bn ($1.8bn) in 2016. Likewise, NEPCO reports that the cost of primary energy as a percentage of GDP fell from 19.6%, or JD4bn ($5.6bn) in 2011, to 7% of GDP, or JD1.9bn ($2.7bn) in 2016. In late 2016 the IMF praised NEPCO’s reforms for reducing budgetary pressures and setting the stage for sustainable electricity sector expansion. Supported by the kingdom’s first sukuk (Islamic bond) issuance, NEPCO returned to profit in 2016, reporting JD200.2m ($282.4m) of operating profits, compared to JD130.6m ($184.2m) of losses in 2015. Comprehensive profits hit JD117.7m ($166m) in 2016, against JD233.2m ($329m) of losses in 2015.

Oil & Gas Production

The NPC is responsible for domestic oil and gas exploration activities, while the MEMR manages oil shale exploration and production. The JPRC manages and operates the Zarqa Refinery.

The NPC’s oil and gas 7000-sq-km concession area is located along the border with Iraq in the north-east, and includes the 1500-sq-km Risha gas field. The NPC’s 50-year concession period entered into force in 1996. Production at Zarqa Refinery – Jordan’s only oil refinery – has dropped in recent years, falling from 3.5m tonnes of output in 2012 – with products including liquefied petroleum gas (LPG), gasoline, jet fuel, kerosene, diesel, fuel oil and asphalt – to 2.8m tonnes in 2016. LPG production fell from 102,000 tonnes to 81,000 tonnes over the same period, while gasoline production dropped from 716,000 tonnes to 583,000 tonnes, and diesel production from 1.1m tonnes to 909,000 tonnes. Fuel oil production also fell from 999,000 tonnes in 2012 to 599,000 tonnes in 2016, while asphalt production more than doubled over the same period, rising from 97,000 tonnes to 238,000 tonnes. The overall decline is set to change, however, with the government moving forward on a refinery upgrade plan, as stipulated by the JEGP. In May 2017 Honeywell UOP and the JPRC signed an agreement to expand the Zarqa Refinery, with upgrades expected to improve the quality of refined products up to Euro V emissions standards, boosting capacity to 120,000 barrels per day. UOP will provide engineering and licensing only once the estimated $1.6bn in financing for the expansion project is secured.

Oil Shale Plant

Jordan’s oil shale reserves are the fourth largest in the world, offering a potentially vital long-term fuel source, with the MEMR estimating that oil shale will account for 14% of Jordan’s energy mix by 2020. In March 2017 a planned $2.1bn 470-MW oil shale power plant – an important part of the long-term domestic hydrocarbon development – reached financial close in March 2017.

The oil shale plant is being developed by the Attarat Power Company with a consortium of international investors – including Estonia’s global shale developer Eesti Energia (10%), China’s Yudean Group (45%) and Malaysia’s YTL (45%) – in partnership with NEPCO. According to an Eesti Energia press release, shareholders will contribute $528m of project costs, while a $1.6bn 15-year facility will be provided by the China Export and Credit Insurance Corporation. Standard Chartered Bank has also agreed to provide a $33m guarantee to NEPCO. The project is expected to meet between 10% and 15% of the kingdom’s annual power demand on completion, with operations scheduled to begin in mid-2020. “Diversification of Jordan’s energy mix is now becoming a reality with upcoming medium-and large-scale renewable energy projects such as the oil shale power plant, which is hoped to reach full operation by October 2020,” Jason Pok, CEO of Attarat Power Company, told OBG.

New Pipelines

A new oil and gas pipeline project connecting Jordan to oil and gas fields in Israel is also under way, with Israel Natural Gas Lines announcing plans in March 2016 to construct a pipeline to supply Jordanian customers with gas from the Leviathan and Tamar offshore gas fields. The project is part of a landmark $10bn gas export contract signed between Texas-based Noble Energy, Israel Natural Gas Lines, and the MEMR in September 2016. Construction will start in the Sdom region near the Dead Sea, and shipments to Jordan are expected to begin in 2019.

Other pipeline projects have been halted or cancelled, such as the planned oil line that would have stretched 1700 km between the southern Iraqi city of Basra to Aqaba. The cancellation came in August 2017 due to projected costs being too high, largely because the planned pipeline ran through territory under Islamic State control in the western Anbar province. Iraqi authorities have told local media that project developers are working to develop other ways of supplying Jordan with gas.

Renewables

Solar energy is forecast to contribute up to 1000 MW of capacity to the national grid by 2020 and heightened investor interest in the renewables segment should help see this achieved. In 2012 the Jordanian government passed the Renewable Energy and Efficiency Law, which codified the model for private sector participation in renewable projects, marking a notable shift in renewables development. Under the previous framework, which the International Finance Corporation had characterised as rigid and slow, renewable energy development was limited to small-scale individual solar and wind projects, as well as two attempted wind farm projects. The law now offers developers a codified direct proposal system, thereby enabling greater flexibility in site selection and technical specifications.

Jordan’s renewables framework was further reformed in 2015, when the MEMR opened tariffs under renewable power purchasing agreements to competitive bidding, selecting winners based on the lowest tariffs offered for any bid meeting the project’s technical and generating requirements.

“The majority of foreign companies, mainly from Europe, have increased the level of competition within the Jordanian market,” Samir Kattan, director of Astraco, told OBG. “Ultimately this is good, as it allows Jordan to further strengthen itself as a leader for renewable energy in the region,” he added. In June 2017 the World Bank reported that Jordan holds a pioneering position in regional renewable energy. Commended developments include Jordan’s feed-in tariff framework, the first of its kind in the Middle East; the introduction of net metering and wheeling arrangements to encourage small-scale renewables development; tax exemptions for renewable energy systems; and innovative tendering and procurement schemes. Sector stakeholders have also suggested that targeting low income populations would be of added benefit. “Renewable energy has gained significant momentum which could be further duplicated if there were more incentives aimed at the middle-and lower-income population,” Samer Hanania, deputy general manager at Hanania Energy, told OBG.

Targets

The Renewable Energy and Efficiency Law dovetails with the National Energy Strategy, which calls for 1800 MW of renewable energy generation – with 600 MW of this generated from solar – by 2020. The solar portion of this target was revised to 1000 MW in January 2016 following unprecedented investor interest in large-scale private solar power projects. The renewables sector is forecast to meet 10% of the country’s energy needs by 2020, although its share will drop to 6% by 2025, following the construction of a planned nuclear power plant.

Renewables development has already made an impact on the country’s energy balance; the contribution of renewables to primary energy consumption rose from 130,000 toe in 2011 to 160,000 toe in 2015, according to MEMR figures. Solar energy accounted for 159,700 toe of domestic energy production in 2015, equivalent to 52.4% of the total. NEPCO, meanwhile, reported that renewables account for 4.6% of total domestic and imported electricity generation in Jordan, with wind generation rising from 121 GWh in 2015 to 388 GWh in 2016, and solar-powered generation soaring from 1.6 GWh to 491 GWh over the same period. “We should feel positive for the overall sector,” Khaled Toukan, chairman of the JAEC, told OBG. “Jordan has the potential for 80% of its energy mix to come from local sources in the long term, by combining renewables, oil shale and nuclear energy.”

Wind & Solar

The first large-scale renewables project developed under the 2012 renewables law was the 117-MW Tafila Wind Farm. Commissioned in September 2015, the $285m project was undertaken as a joint venture between France’s InfraMed, the UAE’s renewable energy development company Masdar and Cyprus’ EP Global Energy. It currently supplies electricity to over 80,000 homes.

In terms of projects in the pipeline, the Al Hussein wind farm, a $148m initiative launched in April 2016 with support from the Kuwait Fund for Arab Economic Development, stands to add 88 MW of new generation when it becomes operational. However, the renewables segment is dominated by solar power projects, in part because solar has benefitted from a progressive policy framework and has attracted strong interest from international investors, pushing Jordan to the forefront of regional renewables development as a result. Two bidding rounds for solar project tenders under a PPP framework have been concluded since 2011, encompassing the development of 16 solar power plants, including the recently opened 52.2-MW Shams Ma’an solar power plant.

Investors have seen that solar power plants offer a vital alternative to rising gas-fired power consumption, as private sector interest in the segment continues to grow. Further competitive investment is expected during a planned but delayed third round of tendering (see analysis).

Refugee Support

Solar projects will also play a role in meeting higher energy demand from refugees. In May 2017, the Azraq refugee camp 100 km east of Amman became the first in the kingdom to operate on solar power, with the IKEA Foundation investing around $10m in partnership with the UN High Commission for Refugees to build a 2-MW solar facility at the camp. This power source will save the camp, which houses some 36,000 Syrian refugees, $1.5m in annual operational expenses, and planned upgrades will bring the total generation capacity to 5 MW.

In other projects, Germany’s state-owned KfW Development Bank announced in March 2017 that it would provide a €44m ($48.1m) grant to support the installation of 35 MW of solar generating capacity under a programme to secure energy supply for communities of Syrian refugees.

Jordan is also turning to small-scale projects, a host of which have been deployed across many private and public establishments, including hotels, hospitals and ministries, with some reporting electricity consumption dropping by 40% following the installation of solar photovoltaic (PV) roof panels (see analysis).

Water

Outside the renewables segment, PPPs could also prove an effective, attractive development model for large-scale water projects including the country’s first-ever desalination facility. The MoWI is responsible for national water policies and strategies, water monitoring and supply, and wastewater management. It is currently undertaking a series of large-scale projects in efforts to boost the kingdom’s shrinking water resources and meet rising demand.

Jordan is facing some of the world’s worst water problems, with the World Bank reporting that it ranks 173rd globally in renewable internal freshwater availability at 77 cu metres per capita. MoWI data shows that annual rainfall volumes in Jordan trended downwards for eight of the 11 years to 2015, while the quantity of water sold for irrigation rose by 13% between 2014 and 2015 to hit 183m cu metres.

Water consumption stood at 1009m cu metres in 2015, of which 514m cu metres was used for agriculture, 457m cu metres for domestic consumption and 38m cu metres for industry. Domestic consumption has recorded strong growth since 2006, rising from 291m cu metres to reach 316m cu metres in 2008, 354m cu metres in 2012 and 429m cu metres in 2014. The MoWI is deploying dozens of near- and long-term solutions to Jordan’s water shortage problem.

Solving Scarcity

The ministry has launched two major projects aimed at boosting domestic water supply: the Augmentation of Water Supply for Central and Northern Jordan from Deep Aquifer in the Shidiyeh-Al Hasa area (see analysis), and the RSDS water conveyance project, one of the largest and most complex utilities ventures in the region.

The RSDS project’s impact will extend beyond Jordan, with its development holding significant geopolitical implications. Under joint development by the governments of Jordan, Palestine and Israel, the multi-faceted project will extract water from the Red Sea and transfer to two desalination pump stations near Aqaba and onwards to a reservoir. Untreated saltwater and brine will then transit to the Dead Sea via pipeline, generating hydropower as it falls several hundred metres below sea level.

Ending its journey at a discharge diffuser on the Dead Sea, it will be used to refill the fast-shrinking body of water, which is dropping at a rate of one metre per annum: from the 1960s to 2016 its elevation fell from 360 metres below sea level to 423 metres below sea level, a loss of 63 metres.

Phased RSDS Development

The project’s $1bn first phase will pump 150m cu metres of water annually from the Red Sea, in order to desalinate 65m cu metres. Under a new water-swap agreement, potable water from Aqaba will be purchased by Israel’s southern Arava region, while Jordan will buy Israeli water supplied from Lake Tiberias and the Palestinian Authority will purchase water from Israel. This tender has been developed under a BOT model, and includes desalination, water purification and transfer components. In November 2016 Jordan announced that five companies had been pre-qualified to bid on the project’s first phase, with construction slated to commence in 2019. MoWI officials also moved to reduce operational costs and improve efficiency in a bid to make the segment more attractive to private investors, with both Israel and Jordan seeking up to $400m of grants to underwrite the project.

A planned $1.5bn-2bn second phase will see Jordan build a 150m-cu-metre desalination plant – the kingdom’s first such facility – which would ship water north to Amman. As one of the first large-scale infrastructure projects to be developed between Israel, Palestine and Jordan, the RSDS project is particularly momentous. Not only will the second phase be developed under a BOT PPP model, but desalination facilities will play a critical role in meeting rising water demand throughout the region. According to MoWI officials, the successful implementation of the second phase is vital to sustaining the per-capita water consumption, including the growing refugee population.

Cutting Costs

Jordan’s water sector is its largest single electricity consumer, accounting for 15% of annual consumption. The MoWI’s Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy Policy for the Jordanian Water Sector was approved in June 2015, targeting a 15% reduction in the sector’s energy consumption by 2025. Without these interventions, annual electricity costs for the water sector are forecast to reach JD640m ($902.8m) by 2025. Solar-fuelled cost reduction projects are being pursued, and in April 2017 officials announced plans to introduce solar power to fuel operations at five major water treatment plants and pumping stations, supported by a €30m ($32.8m) grant from the EU. Grant funding will be used to build five plants capable of generating a cumulative 25-30 MW annually and will be constructed at the Zai and Zara-Maeen Water Treatment Plants, as well as the Wadi Al Arab, Zaatari and Azraq Pumping Stations. The plants are expected to be operational by 2018.

The adoption of cost-cutting solar-powered water heaters is poised to expand substantially, after the February 2017 announcement that Jordan Renewable Energy and Energy Efficiency Fund authorities had signed an agreement with NGOs to install subsidised solar heating systems. The MEMR has targeted the installation of 200,000 solar heaters and 100,000 solar PV systems across the country in the coming years, with the long-term target of 20% solar water heater penetration, up from a previous goal of around 12%. Jordanian firm Hanania Energy was awarded a tender for the first 20,000 solar water heaters in early 2017. Under the terms of the agreement, Hanania will coordinate with 250 organisations to sell JD600 ($846) solar heating units at the discounted price of JD500 ($705). Half of the cost will be covered by the government, with the rest paid by customers. “We have installed 5500 units within five months of the project launch, and each unit has a 25-year lifespan. Although the penetration of solar water heaters in Jordan fell from 24% in 1997 to 12% today, we anticipate this project will significantly improve the adoption of solar solutions, including water heating, across all regions of Jordan,” George Hanania, general manager of Hanania Energy, told OBG.

Nuclear

Nuclear power could also play an important role in long-term energy development. The main government entity responsible for developing the nuclear programme is the JAEC, which was established in 2008, replacing the Jordan Nuclear Energy Commission. The JAEC’s three primary areas of focus are the construction of nuclear power plants for electricity production, the development of Jordan’s uranium resources for the extraction of nuclear materials, and the construction of the Jordan Research and Training Reactor for human resource development and the production of isotopes.

The EMRC is responsible for creating the necessary framework and regulations for electricity production and uranium mining. Meanwhile, the Jordan Nuclear Power Company (JNPC), established in November 2015, is tasked with developing Jordan’s first nuclear power plant, a 2000-MW facility expected to come on-line between 2027 and 2028. The JNPC will act as the owner and operator of the plant in addition to all of the power it generates.

Reactor Development

March 2015 marked a major step forward for the two-unit nuclear plant as the JAEC signed a $10bn agreement with Russian firm Rosatom to establish the legal framework for its construction 60 km east of Amman.

The JAEC reports that an environmental impact assessment and site suitability study are being carried out, with the commission now shifting its focus to the commercial, legal and financial frameworks, including negotiations for 16 planned agreements and contracts covering engineering, procurement, construction and fuel supply.

Rosatom’s reactor export subsidiary AtomStroyExport is slated to supply nuclear technology for the plant’s construction, while Rosatom Overseas will act as the plant’s strategic partner and operator, with its parent company providing fuel for the plant under a 10-year supply agreement. Barring any major geopolitical shocks, the JAEC expects the project to reach financial close during 2018. “One major goal of the project is to achieve price stability in our energy and electricity markets. Shocks every 10 years have had adverse impacts on the economy, whereas with nuclear or oil shale power we’ll be better able to formulate long-term price projections,” Yazan Al Bakhit, economic researcher at the JAEC, told OBG.

Training

To further strengthen its nuclear efforts, the JAEC has constructed the Jordan Research and Training Reactor (JRTR), a 5-MW research reactor located on the premises of the Jordan University for Science and Technology. First criticality for the JRTR was achieved in April 2016, and the JAEC aims to use the reactor to bolster education and training in the field. “We now have a working demonstration, the Jordan Research and Training Reactor, which is a major milestone for nuclear programmes in Jordan. The centre will allow for the training, education, and production of isotopes for Jordan and the export market, all of which are important steps towards nuclear industry development,” Al Bakhit told OBG.

Sesame Studies

Apart from Russia, Jordan’s nuclear development agenda includes many bilateral partners and international agencies, including the US, the EU, Israel, UNESCO and the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA).

These and other partners offered support for the Synchrotron-light for Experimental Science and Applications (SESAME) facility, described by the IAEA as the Middle East’s first major international synchrotron research centre. Preparatory work for the facility started back in 2004, with scientists from Cyprus, Egypt, Iran, Israel, Jordan, Pakistan, the Palestinian Authority and Turkey participating in its establishment and research activities.

Inaugurated in May 2017, SESAME was modelled after the European Organisation for Nuclear Research, developed with support from UNESCO and the IAEA. A synchrotron accelerator at the heart of the facility generates intense light beams – so-called beamlines – for scientific and technical research. These accelerators use high voltages to produce artificial radiation in the form of beams and electrons, and are widely used in a wide array of scientific disciplines, including medicine, energy research, environmental science, biosciences, physics and chemistry.

Researchers are hoping to establish up to 24 beamlines covering dozens of scientific applications. To date, two infrared and X-ray fluorescent beamlines have been installed and are now capable of producing photons. SESAME centre managers now plan to undertake joint projects with other international synchrotron radiation facilities.

Outlook

Although rising power demand and energy import dependence will continue to drive nuclear, oil shale and renewable power projects in Jordan, installing higher capacity grids to absorb new capacity will be the critical next step. NEPCO is expected to continue implementing grid renewals, such as the $160m Green Corridor project launched in October 2015 in partnership with the French government and European Investment Bank. This project entails a series of upgrades throughout the kingdom’s southern transmission network.

In October 2016 NEPCO announced it had started processing bids for three tenders issued for the supply and installation of a new electricity substation in Ma’an – an area well suited to wind projects – in addition to the expansion of substations in Qatraneh and at the Queen Alia International Airport in Amman. All three tenders were awarded by February 2017, with the MEMR announcing in June 2017 that all Green Corridor projects had been tendered and were set for delivery within 18 months, paving the way for sustainable long-term industry development, as well as opportunities for private sector investment.

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