Whose is bigger – KenGen’s or GDC’s?

Power producer KenGen and Geothermal Development Company (GDC) are locked in a supremacy tussle. About the largest electricity producing well!!!!! This is how geothermal development in Kenya today. Very healthy competition. The government-owned companies each claim their geothermal wells are the largest in Kenya and in Africa. This rivalry was again brought to light last week during the One Planet Summit in Nairobi meant to ignite discourse around green energy transition and climate change.

KenGen claimed its single most productive well in Naivasha’s Olkaria steamfields is the largest in Africa and among the top five globally with a capacity to produce 30 megawatts (MW) of geothermal electricity. This is  Olkaria OW-921, sunk five years ago at a depth of 3km underneath the ground.

On the other hand, the Geothermal Development Company (GDC) holds that the Africa title goes to its Well 1A at Menengai fields in Nakuru, since its capacity of 30.6 MW is slightly higher than KenGen’s best performing well at 30 MW. It is a question of 0.6 MWe!! It is like school children comparing their score cards.

A standard well on average yields only five megawatts 4 to 5 MWe. This means  KenGen’s and GDC wonder wells are each equivalent to six wells. Drilling a single well costs an average $5 million (Sh500 million). Some wells turn out dry, returning losses to investors in terms of sunk costs. But such wonder wells compensate the losses. Other super wells are those in Indonesia (40 MWe per well) and California.

GDC is fully owned by the government while KenGen, which is listed on the Nairobi Securities Kenya is currently ranked the ninth largest producer of geothermal electricity in the world and the leader in Africa with a capacity of 690 MWe.  Kenya’s power demand hits 1,832 MWe. Hydro power is other major source contributing to meet this demand.