The main solid energy sources include coal, oil shale and tar sands, as well as uranium.
The low volume of exploratory work may explain the limited discoveries of these sources in some Arab countries.
The available data and exploratory efforts relating to solid energy sources in the Arab countries are extremely limited and dispersed.
The paper reviews the data available on these sources in the Arab countries, as well as their world status.
Conclusions drawn by the paper are:
Coal reserves discovered in Arab countries are limited to Morocco, Algeria, and Egypt. Mining operations are confined to Morocco and Egypt.
On the global level, industrial countries control 72 percent of coal reserves. Its current share in world consumption of commercial energy is about 28 percent.
Being one of the main environment – pollutant fossil fuels, there are conflicting views on the future prospects of coal. Expanding its use depends largely on the serious efforts exerted by the industrial nations in developing technologies that ensure clean, efficient use of coal.
Oil shale and tar sands were discovered in Jordan, Morocco, and Syria. Although some experiments were conducted in Jordan and Morocco, the prevailing oil and gas prices, and their negative impact on the environment, made it economically infeasible to invest in these sources of energy.
On a worldwide scale, oil shale and tar sand reserves are intensively located in some countries, but investment in this area is currently limited to Estonia and Brazil.
There are projects under way to invest in Australian oil shale. Limited volumes are used in the occupied Palestine for power generation by direct combustion.
Limited proven reserves discovered in several Arab countries represent a source of uranium as a secondary product from producing phosphoric acid by wet method.
However recovery of uranium using this method is economically infeasible under current price levels.
Internationally, there has been a supply/demand deficit since the late eighties. It was covered from the stocks of western countries and companies, and from the nuclear warheads, which were dismantled after the end of the cold war.
Future prospects of uranium are dependent on the developments in using nuclear energy, increasing the number of operating reactors, or dispensing with some of them.
On the foreseen perspective, the reduction of uranium concentration in nuclear warheads may add to the current production capacities, thus covering the supply/demand gap.
Whereas conventional mining is the major source of uranium, new commercial production sites must be developed at a later stage.
Mohammad Mukhtar Al-Lababidi (Director of Technical Affairs Dept. - OAPEC)