KenGen has recorded significant steam finds in Olkaria, putting the company in a prime position to begin the next phase of capacity enhancement projects which are largely based on geothermal energy. A total of 375MW is currently available for three planned projects with a total capacity of 350MW as the company continues to drill wells to supply steam for an additional 70MW unit at the recently commissioned Olkaria I Unit 4&5 plant.Other projects are the 140MW Olkaria V and Olkaria VI plants, which the company plans to develop in the next 2-4 years. The 140MW Olkaria V, KenGen’s next project, is set to kick off before the end of the year.
“The current steam available is 374.7MW. This is available for Olkaria 1 Unit 6, a single unit of 70 MW to be constructed at Olkaria 1. Available steam for this plant is 84 MW,” said KenGen’s director for Geothermal Development, Eng. Abel Rotich. “Olkaria V Power Plant is a 140 MW Project. Steam available for this plant is 166.4MW while the other 140MW Olkaria VI plant has 124.3MW of available steam,” says Mr Rotich, adding: “Testing of other wells is in progress. We are also drilling more wells which shall cover our requirements going forward.”
The company is nearing completion of the drilling program whose aim was to supply steam for over 400MW that is planned for development in the next 2-4 years. The remaining steam will be used at the wellheads program to ensure that the steam available is converted to electricity at the earliest opportunity, pending construction of the power plants. This far, the wellhead generation units are providing a total of 45MW of electricity.
KenGen has exceeded required steam levels, which enhances guarantees towards financing for the projects. It also means that the company has already provided steam for future plants exceeding the requirements of the three projects under this drilling program. Already, the company has picked consultants for the project and is in the process of selecting contractors. Negotiations for funding are progressing well with development partners.
The huge steam finds have been due to the company’s experience in geothermal exploration, improved technology and world-class expertise. Known as the multi-well pad drilling approach, it employs both the directional and straight well drilling. A three wells-pad 921 have been tested and proven to give a total output of 32.7 MW.
“Three wells have been drilled on pad 921. The total discharge from this pad (A pad refers to group of several wells) is 32.7 MW. However, OW-921A discharge data is only preliminary and it is anticipated that if tested at wellhead pressures, output could be more than 30 MW. We plan to carry out long term discharge tests on the well once proper disposal arrangement is in place,” said Mr Rotich.
Previously, the highest yielding pad, also with three wells was at 33MW and forms one of Africa’s biggest well-pad which is located in the geothermal-rich Olkaria area. The well was connected to the 140MW Olkaria IV project, which is part of the milestone 280MW project.KenGen has drilled 137 wells since 2007, way above the target of 100 wells. Eight rigs are in operation at the Olkaria steam fields.
To accelerate its geothermal power production programme, KenGen has explored the innovative wellhead technology which is faster to deploy. To date, 45MW of power is being produced using this technology while KenGen is on schedule to add an additional 30MW to this fleet. Fourteen such wellheads are expected to be completed by 2016.
Geothermal sources currently account for one-third of the national installed capacity estimated at 2 150 MW but provide more than half of the energy generated due to its high energy yield and stability against weather variations. Geothermal is poised to be the future dominant source of electricity.KenGen plans to add at least 3,000 megawatts to the national grid by 2018, mostly from renewable sources such as geothermal and wind.