The Energy & Mineral Resources Ministry aims to sign memorandums of understanding (MoUs) by early September with three companies to carry out feasibility studies into surface oil shale deposits in the Al-Lajoun block in the west. The ministry estimates the kingdom to have surface oil shale reserves of up to 40,000 million tonnes (MEED 17:2:06).

Based on the results of these studies, the ministry will invite international oil companies (IOCs) to participate in a new oil shale licensing bid round with up to five other blocks on offer ? Wadi Magher, Sultani, Siwaqa, Jurf and Attarat Umm Ghudran. ?We intend to sign MoUs with each of the companies within the next two months,? Energy & Mineral Resources Minister Azmi Khreisat told MEED on 3 July. ?If the results of these studies meet the criteria in the MoU, negotiations will start in order to grant these [three] companies a concession agreement. Each company will be granted one-third of the Al-Lajoun block.?

Following the award of a $310,000 grant from the US Trade & Development Agency (USTDA) in January, the ministry has selected the US? Behre Dolbear to carry out a feasibility study into the oil shale deposits across the kingdom.

In early June, the National Resources Authority signed an MoU with the Royal Dutch/Shell Group. Under the MoU, Shell will explore and assess the hydrocarbons production potential of extracting deep oil shale resources using an in-situ conversion process across an area of about 35,000 square kilometres. The area is divided between the Azraq and Al-Jafr blocks in the centre of the kingdom.

Following the results of the MoU, the ministry intends to sign a concession agreement with Shell which will cover a smaller area of about 20,000 square kilometres. The aim is to produce high-quality transportation fuels and other energy products to target the domestic market and for export to global markets.