Update on the Laguna Colorada geothermal project in Bolivia

Update on the Laguna Colorada geothermal project in Bolivia Laguna Colorada, Bolivia (source: flickr/ rewbs.soal, creative commons)
Alexander Richter 25 Apr 2017

With recent financing secured, the Laguna Colorada geothermal project is ready for development with potential start of operation of the first 50 MW by 2020 and additional 50 MW by 2023.

At the GEOLAC conference in Mexico City, Marco Antonio Escobar Seleme, the head of the Laguna Colorada geothermal project by ENDE in Bolivia provided an update on the 100 MW project.

The project recently signed a loan with JICA from Japan over $552 million for the development of the project.

The geothermal potential of Bolivia along the western mountains of the country is represented at 70 different sites with indications of geothermal resources. The most promising projects are Laguna Colorada, Empexa and Saja. The overall geothermal potential is estimated at 280-370 MW for Laguna Colarada, at Empexa the potential of 10 and 15 MW, and Sajama is not estimated yet. But overall a feasible geothermal power generation potential of 510-1,260 MW is estimated … but could be extended to up to 2,500 MW.

The Laguna Colorada project located in the Southeast of the country near the border to Chile. A feasibility study for the project was done by Japanese West JEC in 2010.

The project is by the national energy company ENDE, which has done more than 70 studies to establish potential, and development targets. The overall resources is considered to be significant with 100-250 MW in early development phases.

In 2012 to 2013, in technical cooperation with Japan, ENDE conducted well tests with wells drilled in the 1980s and 1990s. The altitude, weather, low and high temperatures are challenging for any work on the project site. These conditions provide challenges for any company to work on the project.

The geothermal reservoir has high enthalpy with high fractures and saturated at a pressure of 70 bars and 250 degrees Celsius.

For the pilot plant a 5 MW installation is planned, which could for further development provide electric power for drilling of additional wells on site and would help develop the project in steps to a total capacity of 100 MW.

The feasibility studies were prepared in 2008 and 2010. In the pre-phase of the project the

Tender for the plant will be initiated this year funded by the Commercial Bank of Bolivia, and the 100 MW with financing of $552 million by JICA.

It is planned to drill additional 25 wells. The project requires a a connection to the national grid to be built between 2018 and 2020 starting at Laguna Colorada to the substation with a distance of 170 km. The first 50 MW of the plant are to operate in 2020 and additional 50 MW to start operation in 2023.

Bolivia wants to export electric power to reduce the consumption of gas, which in turn it could then export. Geothermal power would provide electricity stability to the southern grid and decrease the dependency on gas in the region and the country. The economic benefits are big, and will also play an important role in the local communities. ENDE has held public meetings and conducted complimentary studies on the impact of transmission lines, e.g. the impact on the flamingo population. This was funded by the Inter-American Development Bank.

Negotiations are ongoing about selling electricity to neighbouring countries, but currently not with Chile – as described by Mr. Escobar answering a question from the audience.