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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’ America Asia Petroleum 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.