AMMAN — Jordan has reached an agreement for the country’s first oil shale-fired power plant in what energy officials are calling a “milestone” in the country’s drive for energy independence.

Authorities announced on Saturday that Jordan has reached an agreement with Estonian-Malaysian consortium Enefit to construct a 460-megawatt (MW) oil shale power plant within the next four years, in what is to be the first electricity station utilising the alternative energy resource in the entire region.

Under the landmark deal, which has been over two years in the making, Enefit is to construct the plant in the central region in order to take advantage of a parallel oil plant project being carried out by the firm forecast to produce some 38,000 barrels of oil shale per day.

According to the firm, the power plant is expected to consume some 21,000 tonnes of oil shale per day.

With the agreement set, the firm is set to launch a tender for the construction of the plant later this month, with the first 237MW unit to come online by 2016.

According to Minister of Energy and Mineral Resources Alaa Batayneh, electricity generated by the plant is forecast to shave some JD350 million off the Kingdom’s national energy bill, which, due to ongoing cuts in Egyptian gas supplies, has reached a record JD4 billion.

“The new oil shale-based power plant will deliver significant economic benefits to Jordan,” Batayneh said in a press statement released on Saturday.

The power plant comes as the first in a series of projects to tap Jordan’s estimated 40-billion-tonne oil shale reserves, which include an initiative to extract 15,000 barrels per day in Karak and the construction of a second, 900MW plant, by the end of the decade.

Energy officials have prioritised oil shale as key to weaning the country off energy imports, which cost Jordan over one-fourth of its gross domestic product annually.

The agreement comes amid rising international energy prices, which have pushed the National Electric Power Company’s deficit to JD1.5 billion and forced authorities to implement an unpopular rise in electricity prices earlier this month.