GeoGlobal expects to start operating in Chile by 2013

Snapshot of GeoGlobal Energy website
Alexander Richter 30 Mar 2010

New Zealand's Mighty River Power Ltd. through GeoGlobal Energy LLC, expects its Chilean venture to start operating by 2013.

“New Zealand’s Mighty River Power Ltd., operator of the world’s largest single-turbine geothermal generator, expects its Chilean venture to start operating by 2013”, so a recent news piece.

According to the article, “Drilling next summer will help refine the concept for a 70- megawatt, $220 million project at Tolhuaca, southeast of Concepcion, Mighty River Chief Executive Officer Doug Heffernan said in an interview in Wellington today. Construction may take three years, assuming some time is lost to winter snow, he said.
“Three years from the end of this year you could have a plant operating,” Heffernan said. “A minimum of two years and likely three years.”

Chile is encouraging development of new power sources after suffering shortages as Argentina reduced natural gas supplies. Mighty River, working through Denver, Colorado-based associate GeoGlobal Energy LLC, has gained access to five potential steamfields in competition with rival developers including Italy’s Enel SpA, state-owned refiner Empresa Nacional de Petroleo and London-based miner Antofagasta Plc.

“There are not many big players that have experience from the exploration all the way through to the running” of plants, Heffernan said. “When we bid we’ve got a serious program of what we’re going to do. We’re not looking around to find someone to give us the money to do it.”

Geothermal plants tap heat from the earth to power turbines and generate electricity. Chile and New Zealand lie on the 40,000-kilometer (25,000-mile) chain of active volcanoes that surrounds the Pacific Ocean. The zone, known as the Ring of Fire, also includes the west coast of the U.S., Japan and Indonesia.

New Zealand was one of the first developers of large-scale geothermal power and produces 11 percent of its electricity at steam field power plants with a total capacity of about 720 megawatts. Chile may develop as much as 2,000 megawatts of geothermal power in the next decade, according to GeoGlobal.

State-owned Mighty River, based in Auckland, operates four geothermal power stations in New Zealand and is seeking planning approval for a fifth. It bought a 25 percent stake in GeoGlobal in 2008 and has committed $100 million of funding to help profit from its expertise turning steam into power.

Chile’s geothermal resources are much like those Mighty River has developed the past five years using plant developed and built by Sumitomo Corp. and Fuji Electric Systems Co., Heffernan said.

“Resources are very high temperature,” Heffernan said. “They are quite large in scale, even relative to New Zealand, and some of them seem to have relatively shallow production zones.”

Chile isn’t short of investors keen to invest in new power projects and GeoGlobal will probably seek partners as projects near development, he said. Two of the permits, at Alitar in northern Chile and Colimapu southeast of Santiago, are half- owned by Colbun SA, Chile’s third-largest generator.

While GeoGlobal will seek more permits, it is not planning to become a utility in its own right and may only retain an operating stake in projects, Heffernan said.”

Source: Business Week