Located 36 kilometers from the   heavily flowered Naivasha town on the slopes of mount Olkaris, lies one of the geothermal explorers in Kenya, Orpower.  Orpower is part of the multi-national firm, Ormat Inc, that specializes in geothermal energy production and is operates wells in different countries all over the world.

In Kenya, Orpower is the operator of geothermal field, Olkaria III. The plant currently generates 93 Mega Watts of power.  There is however ongoing construction of a new plant that will see the firm increases its total power output to over 100mega watts.

Unlike other players in Geothermal exploration who use high pressure steam to turn turbines for electric energy generation, Orpower employs a slightly different method. As Eng. Ernest Mabwa, the plant Engineer explains, Orpower plants use a heat exchanger to transfer heat from hot water drawn from underground unto a fluid, isobutene, that is then used to turn the turbine. Eng. Mabwa further explains that Isobutene is more efficient since it is able to heat up to higher temperatures as compared to steam.

The new section of the plant which is under construction is due for completion by the end of this year. Orpower currently records 12 operational wells, another four that have been sunk and put on stand-by and the last four that have been killed.

Interesting Facts
-Geothermal wells at one point are “killed”. Yes, they are stopped fully from producing steam and used as re-injection wells where used up steam is re-injected back to the source to be reused later.

-Geothermal production is better in cold seasons as the machinery works well under cool conditions.

source: Project AWEsome Files

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Kenya Engineer is the definitive publication of Engineers in East Africa & beyond and the official journal of the Institution of Engineers of Kenya. Kenya Engineer has been in publication since 1972.

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