Copahue and Domuyo, two potential geothermal projects in Argentina

Cordillera, Cerca de Copahue, Argentina (source: flickr/ patricia_sgrignuoli, creative commons)
Alexander Richter 24 Sep 2017

In the context of the push on renewable energy in Argentina, two geothermal projects should be of particular interest. The Copahue project with an estimated 10-30 MW geothermal power generation capacity potential and the Domuyo geothermal project site.

Argentina is pushing forward with its renewable energy agenda and geothermal energy could be a part of that. With particular good geothermal resources in the Neuquén province, two projects there are of great interest for potential investors.

These are the Copahue and Domuyo geothermal projects. Here some details on both projects by the Neuquen Investment Agency:

COPAHUE Geothermal Project

The project consists of the construction of a geo-thermoelectric power station that will provide energy by using endogenous steam originated in “Las Mellizas de Copahue” geothermic field; the drilling of wells to feed the power station and the construction of a transmission line to link the geothermal reservoir area to the nearest step-up station integrated to the National Grid

Stage 1: Modular design, modified by ADI-NQN

  • Capacity: 10 MW.
  • Wells to be drilled: 2
  • Transmission Line: 9 km (33 Kw)
  • Annual Energy: 78,8 GWh
  • Reduction of CO2 emissions:34.690 ton/year
  • Homes served: 26.000
  • Cost per Kw installed: 4.032 US$/KW
  • Investment:US$46.072.000.

Option 2: JICA’s feasibility design

  • Capacity: 30 MW
  • Wells to be drilled: 7
  • Transmission Line: 101 km (132 Kw)
  • Annual Energy: 237 Gwh
  • Reduction of CO2 emissions: 104.325 ton/year
  • Homes served: 78.000
  • Cost per Kw installed: 4.224 US$/KW
  • Investment: US$126.720.000

The modular design represents an advantage over the traditional construction of a geothermal plant because it allows earlier production, and even more important, a shorter payback period as compared to a traditional investment cycle. This scenario will allow further studies and works to incorporate new modules until reaching a generation capacity of 30 MW as shown in the feasibility study. The technology to be used in either option is based on a condensing cycle with steam turbines, cooling towers and a capacity factor of 90%, due to saturated steam of high enthalpy at > 230 °C available in the geothermal resource. 

The Project includes 3 different phases of development:


It includes drilling directional production wells with telescopic design. The final diameter is 9 5/8” and the depth, 1500 m. Additionally, it is planned to complete surface studies (geochemical and geophysical) to update the conceptual model of the geothermal field.

Power Station

This phase includes the design, construction and installation of a geothermal power station, with an installed capacity of 30 MW or 10 MW, according to the option chosen. Condensation cycle type, and capacity factor of 90% is the technology to be used for power generation

Transmission Line

This phase involves the construction of a 132 kV, 101 km long power transmission line between the geothermal plant and the step-up station in Chos Malal for stage II or a 33 kV, 9 km long underground power transmission line from the geothermal plant and the step-up station in Caviahue. Additionally, in both cases, the construction of a transformer substation to increase the voltage of electric generation from the power station to the transmission line needs to be contemplated.

Current Status of the project

ADI-NQN is looking for investors interested in carrying out the exploitation of geothermal reservoir for a period of 25 years through a concession contract.


DOMUYO Geothermal Project

Domuyo geothermal field is located approximately 35 km. north of Varvarco, in Minas Department, NW of theprovince of Neuquén. It is approximately 462 km from the city of Neuquén, capital of the province.

The aim of the project is to update and deepen the surface exploration studies (phase I) that include geology,geochemistry and geophysics of the geothermal field. Besides, it comprehends a deep exploration drilling (phaseII) to determine the potential of this resource to generate power at a commercial scale.

General Technical Characteristics

  • Geothermal Field: steam-water mixed.
  • Potential identified: Very high
  • Current status of the Project: ADI-NQN S.E.P. has launched an exploratory project to reach the feasibility level. If results are positive and the exploration sustainable, a 25 year concession will be granted to generate energy.
  • Main challenges: – Location of the field: Northeast of Neuquén Province (200 Km north of Chos Malal) and more than 2.200 m.a.s.l,  – Access to the area with restrictions.
  • Thermal Manifestations Temperature: Varies from 60° °C to 90° C
  • Geothermometry Temperature of the Field: 220º C to 230º C
  • Estimated depth of the Reservoir: 800-1,000 meters.
  • Completion deadline of exploration contract: 2 to 4 years.

Available Documents

The Agency makes available to bidders the documents listed below:

  • JICA Report “Pre-feasibility Study of Geothermal Project in Northern Neuquén”.
  • Pre-feasibility study of the trace of a future High Voltage Line of 132 KV.
  • Documentation that proves ownership of the mineral rights of Maitena and Maria Victoria

Contracting Conditions

Contracting will be through an exploration contract, with the option of exploitation, intended to discover and produce endogenous steam for electric power generation.

The rights to the mining area where the project is located (ref. mining records No. 4802-00790/2010 Maitena Mine and No. 4802-00791/2010 María Victoria Mine) belong to ADI-NQN S.E.P. and have been registered with the Mining Authority of the Province Neuquén which, under Article 54 of the Mining Code of Argentina, enables to undertake the exploration and exploitation of the field.

To develop this project, ADI-NQN S.E.P. launched a Public Call for Investors to complete exploratory studies of this geothermal field for a period of no more than 4 (four) years, with the option to exploit the field through a concession contract if positive results are obtained. A feasibility study is a previous condition to make the option to exploit the geothermal field for a 25-year period through a concession contract.

The mine area is located about 1,760 kilometers from the City of Buenos Aires and just 560 kilometers from the capital city of the Province of Neuquén. It is approximately 35 kilometers from the town of Varvarco. Its average altitude is 2,300 meters above sea level.

According to surveys of flow, electrical, seismic and isotopic performed opportunely determined potential areas to be developed.

These are two areas selected in the Transition Zone, being adjacent to geothermal manifestations, with an expectation of thermal fluids over 200 ° C. Systems have fractured zones and the base is more than 800 meters deep.

  • Area A: located to the north of Los Pans, and its development of 2.5 km in NS direction and 1.0 km in the EW direction. The andesites and dacitic tuff is concluded that are the substrate of the reservoir, with low to moderate density and moderate to high porosity. Geophysical procedures indicated the existence of a collapse in the base and developing fractures. The geothermal reservoir may extend not only laterally but also vertically.
  • Area B: it is the S of The Humazo and covers the area delineated by the axes of 1.2 km in NS direction and 0.5 km in an EW direction. Mesozoic formations of the basement with low and high densities and low porosity are presumed crushed by many fracture systems. A vertical structure extending in depth and arguably the geothermal reservoir area.


Source: Neuquen Investment Agency