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China, Estonia firms to work on Jordan oil shale power plant

TALLINN, Dec 17 (Reuters) - Chinese firm Guangdong Power Engineering Corporation has won a preliminary deal to design and construct the first oil shale power plant in Jordan, the Estonian developer said on Tuesday.

The Middle East kingdom, which imports 97 percent of its energy, hopes to exploit its oil shale deposits, among the largest in the world.

Oil shale, a rock rich in kerosene, can be burned in boilers or processed into oil liquids. Estonia is the world's biggest oil shale power producer.

The 540-megawatt (MW) plant is being developed by Attarat Power Company, 65 owned by Estonian energy group Eesti Energia, through its subsidiary Enefit Jordan B.V.

The project development company has also signed a preliminary deal with Bank of China and Industrial Commercial Bank of China on a loan of $1.4 billion.

Estonia Energy said the project developer will enter into binding deals for the construction and financing after concluding talks with Jordanian government on power sales.

It did not provide any time frame for concluding the deal.

Power production from the oil shale could be crucial for Jordan, Energy Minister Alaa Batayneh told Reuters earlier this year.

Independent power plants, which produce over 60 percent of the country's installed power capacity of 3,300 megawatts, are barely keeping up with a 7 percent annual rise in consumption.

The other partners in the power plant project are Malaysian YTL Power International Berhad with 30 percent stake and Jordanian Near East Investment with the remaining 5 percent.

Royal Dutch Shell, has invested $100 million to explore for oil shale in Jordan's eastern and northern regions. (Reporting by David Mardiste, writing by Nerijus Adomaitis, editing by William Hardy)