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Energy experts meet in Kenya to review surface exploration

By Njoroge Kaburo NAIROBI, (Xinhua) -- International geothermal experts kicked off a two-day meeting in Nairobi on Tuesday to review and assess the results of surface exploration studies of the geothermal prospects in East Africa region.

The experts from Africa, Europe, Iceland, New Zealand and North America will also learn from best practices of geothermal resource exploration and conceptual modeling based on the review and evaluation of the results of surface exploration studies.

“The review of previous geo-scientific studies revealed knowledge gaps that needed to be resolved to enable accurate siting of exploratory wells, and target sites for deep exploratory wells at Silali and Tendaho,” UNEP said in a statement issued in Nairobi.

UNEP is providing technical assistance in support of a detailed review and revised conceptual model for both projects, and additionally provide financial support to carry out further detailed surface exploration studies at Dubti-Ayrobera at Tendaho.

The meeting, which is the initiative of UNEP through the African Rift Geothermal Development Facility (ARGeo) Project, will catalyze investments to speed up development of geothermal energy in Kenya, Ethiopia and Rwanda.

The statement said the technical review meeting of the Silali and Tendaho projects in Kenya and Ethiopia aims at optimizing the information and quality of the conceptual model of the system that will allow for accurate siting of exploratory wells that minimizes risks of drilling of dry wells while increasing the chances of drilling high productive wells.

For the Silali geothermal scheme in Kenya, the meeting, the first of its kind and content to be held in the region, is expected to fully develop a project for enhanced integrated model, identify at least three exploratory drilling sites, and provide a set of recommendations for further development of Silali geothermal project.

Kenya has been facing unreliable supply of electricity highlighted by frequent power blackouts mainly blamed on higher demand than current installed capacity.

Even more worrying is the electricity tariff which is second highest in East Africa and analysts say harnessing power from geothermal is a capital intensive and high risk venture, which has scared away most would-be explorers.

A total of 120 wells will be drilled for construction of phase 1 power plants which are set to commence in 2014.

Kenya’s Menengai phase 1 project will cost approximately 488 million U.S. dollars in drilling costs. GDC said it has obtained adequate funding for this phase from the government and development partners.

GDC said it is also looking for investors for the Phase 2 of the project that will generate 800MW.  The company said it is seeking four equity investors who will each get the opportunity to jointly develop 200 MW of steam with GDC.

Besides the Menengai geothermal field with 100MW to be commissioned in 2015, the Baringo-Silali geothermal field located in North Rift region of Kenya is earmarked for development in 2014.

Infrastructure works have begun in the Baringo prospect and drilling is set in Silali to begin in the third quarter of 2014.

Kenya’s Geothermal Development Company (GDC) plans to develop the first 800 MW project in phases of each phase with 200MW that will in turn contribute to the Government’s target of generating additional 5000 MW by December 2016.

GDC will jointly develop the field with the private sector through PPP arrangement. The Government expects to derive approximately 5,000 MW of its energy from geothermal resources by 2030.

“Regarding the Tendaho geothermal project, experts would present the preliminary enhanced integrated model and formulate recommendations for optimizing the conceptual model,” UNEP said.

Ethiopia recently developed a new energy policy and strategy geared towards the objective of generating 5,000 MW from geothermal energy resources by 2037.

Tendaho geothermal field which is located in northeastern part of the Ethiopia’s Rift Valley is one of the target areas at the forefront to contribute towards the achievement of this goal.

The Tendaho geothermal field is known for its multiple potential geothermal areas namely Doubti, Ayrobera and Allalobeda. The UNEP ARGeo Project currently focuses on the Doubti-Ayrobera geothermal prospect area.

During the technical meeting, a review of project proposals on the pre-feasibility studies of the Kinigi geothermal prospect, in Rwanda will also be presented and discussed.

Rwanda plans to develop over 300 MWe from geothermal resources to reduce the current dependence on biomass as the primary energy supply for over 85 percent of the population.

Electricity is used by only 10 percent of the population and the government of Rwanda plans to increase the access to electricity to 70 percent of the population through public and private partnerships, and shift the economic drivers from agriculture to manufacturing.

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