Archive for June, 2012


GEA International Geothermal Showcase

May 23, 2012 was a great day for the geothermal community at the GEA’s International Geothermal Showcase in Washington D C, USA. Representative from US, foreign geothermal companies, government officials and several geothermal experts, numbering 270, participated in this showcase.  The Geothermal Showcase was attended by government and industry leaders of 27 countries that include countries like Belgium, Canada, Chile, Colombia, Costa Rica, Djibouti, France, Germany, Iceland, India, Indonesia, Kenya, Mexico,  New Zealand, Nicaragua, Pakistan, the Philippines, Romania, Rwanda, St. Vincent &  Tanzania, Turkey, the United States, and the West Indies. Majority of these countries belong to non OECD group and their socio-economic development depends of energy independence rather than energy security.  Energy security automatically derives the country to depend on “well to do” countries.  The energy source for these countries is fossil fuels.  Such countries’ development will be at risk due to oscillating oil prices as being experienced in the past and present. There are several non-OECD countries that have abundant geothermal resources but still depend on import oil source for development. For example, Djibouti, Eretria, Greece, Mongolia, Somalia depend on 100% imported fossil fuel. Other countries like Nicaragua, Jordan import nearly 99% of fossil fuels.  The CO2 emission by the non-OECD countries will be of the order of 10000 million metric tonnes by the year 2030.

Out of the countries listed above, Nicaragua’s, according to the President of the National Electric Company,   policy is wide open to develop geothermal energy in a big way.  Nicaragua’s San Jacinto Geothermal resource will be developed by Ram Power of USA. The total geothermal power that is expected to  be online by the end of this year (2012) will be 72 MWe. This will be a great relief to the country that depends on imported fossil fuels to the tune of 99%.  Additional geothermal power will be added once the exploration work on other geothermal sites is completed.

The main focus of the days showcase was to promote geothermal business across the world and support successful geothermal ventures. Delivering the keynote address at the workshop Sen. Bingaman said ” The only losers in the clean energy race will be those who do not compete”. Karl Gawell, Executive Director, GEA remarked ” it is critical that U.S. policy makers act immediately to keep the United States with the rest of the world”.

The main focus was drawn to the geothermal energy resources of East Africa.  Even though East Africa has abundant geothermal resources, the country is still depends on high cost imported diesel and unreliable hydro power. The East African rift valley is a loci of abundant low as well as high enthalpy geothermal resources.  Several international funding agency spent millions of dollars in geothermal exploration activity in the region and several detailed projects reports were prepared and several conferences were held to focus the international community’s interest in developing this resource and uplifting the socio-economic status of the rural communities.   The next ARGeo-C4 is going to be held in Kenya in November 2012.   Geothermal technology is highly matured now. Efficient heat exchangers, high performance binary fluids and very efficient drilling techniques are available and installing a power plant is very easy.  In spite of these facts, one wonders why millions of MWh of electricity that can be tapped from the geothermal sources is allowed to go waste!! The resources are in basalt formations and challenges associated with reservoirs are not difficult to tackle. There seems to be some “supernatural power” that is coming in the way of such development.  Perhaps lack of required economic strength of the country ( all the technology has to be imported) is making it difficult to develop the resources. But then, the funds needed to develop the resources comes from international community and hence funds should not be a cause for not developing this easily accessible, base load providing green energy.

Although India was represented at the above workshop, there is no news about the country’s reaction and or initiative in this direction even though M/s GeoSyndicate Power Pvt. Ltd., the only geothermal company made remarkable progress in obtaining PPA from certain state governments and waiting for power tariff to be fixed.  Once the power tariff is fixed, work on the pilot power plant in Andhra Pradesh will commence followed by the province in Leh.

In the past low enthalpy geothermal resources (LEG)  were considered economically not  viable.  Considering the constant build-up of CO2 in the atmosphere, CO2 reduction strategies countries have to adopt and compelling situation for a constant industrial growth by developing countries, policy makers are and planners are encouraging development of low enthalpy geothermal resources. Now it is possible to generate power from geothermal fluids with temperatures as low as 82 °C.  According to estimates,  use of geothermal fluids with temperature of about 100 °C will increase the energy available for electricity generation from 11200 TWh per year to 22400 TWh per year with the advancement taking place in binary power generation technology.

“a continued focus and expansion of trying to utilize lower-temperature resources  so that we can continue to bring what was once thought uneconomical and unattractive for geothermal, but often more abundant. These low-temperature resources actually can produce utility-scale power production”…………….. commented one of the leading geothermal company scientist in one of the recently posted article by a  leading renewable energy site under a news item  “Low-Temperature Geothermal: Digging for Its Vast Opportunity”. Thus the potential of low enthalpy geothermal resources has been underestimated worldwide.

Compared to other low CO2 emission sources like wind and solar, geothermal supplies base load power, does not require storage systems and back-up power facility. Once commissioned, the system runs for several years with proper maintenance. In fact for many countries are using low enthalpy geothermal resources for recreation, balneology, space heating, dehydration etc (direct applications). Now these countries can evaluate their low enthalpy resources for power generation. 400 000 TJ/y of geothermal energy is in use for direct application world over according to a recent publication by the World Geothermal Congress, 2010 held at Bali in April 2010. As mentioned above, countries such as those like the Caribbean islands ( Nevis, St. Kitts, Montserrat, St. Lucia etc) according the book mentioned above import oil and gas for electrification even though these countries have large low enthalpy geothermal resources.  This is true even with countries in Eastern Africa. Those located within the rift environment with plenty of geothermal energy sources, depend on imported oil  to support their electricity demand and increase the GDP of the country as well as that of rural regions.