The Kingdom of Jordan may be about to finalize a mega-deal with Shell Oil for the extraction of oil shale on 22,000 square meters of land–almost one quarter of the country. Some 40 billion tons of shale oil are believed to exist in the central and southern regions.
Natural Resources Authority (NRA) Director Maher Hijazin told The Jordan Times,“We are close to finishing negotiations and we expect the agreement to go before Parliament for approval within the next month.”
Shell, meanwhile, is staying mum about the reports. And well they may, because oil shale is a controversial topic, especially in the context of today’s heightened awareness of climate change.
The emissions of oil shale, by some accounts, are even more harmful to the environment than the emissions of conventional fossil fuels. And Shell’s new in situ technology of extraction, which is reputed to be less harmful to the environment than previous methods, may actually be a source of groundwater pollution.
The complex process of oil shale extraction usually makes it a more costly alternative to crude oil. But with the price of crude oil still high (now at $50 a barrel) oil shale has become a cost-effective source of energy. And bad for the environment? Absolutely.
But it may comfort some readers to know that there is more to the story: the Jordan Nuclear Energy Commission has been surveying these areas that are up for negotiation with Shell. If the land turns out to be rich in uranium deposits, preference will be given to the Commission. In other words, uranium extraction and thus the development of nuclear power is considered just a bit more of a priority than mega-billion dollar business deals.
We can sleep well at night.