Ethiopia continues its efforts to exploit geothermal energy, as the state-owned Ethiopian Electricity Company (EEP) announced the start of testing the production of geothermal wells, which were drilled – recently – at the Alto Langano site in the center of the country.
It is scheduled – according to the company announced – to test 4 new underground wells at the only site producing geothermal energy in the East African country, which is a clean and renewable source for generating electricity or heating, of natural origin stored in the rocks of the earth and its interior.
The project expansions and ongoing drilling are being carried out by the Kenya Electric Corporation “Kingen”; The Kenyan state company will drill 12 geothermal wells at the Alto Langano site.
Steam production tests will last 3 months, with a two-week interval for each well, and the expansion works are aimed at developing 70 megawatts of clean power generation capacity.
geothermal power plant
Ethiopia contracted to construct the steam station with Toshiba Energy Systems, Japan’s Toyota Tsusho Corporation, and Turkey’s Egysem Energy Electromechanical Construction.
The Aloto Longano geothermal power plant is located in the Ethiopian Rift Valley and covers an area of 8 square kilometers near the extinct volcano Aluto Crater.
The site contains a geothermal power plant, which began operating in 1998, with a net production capacity of 7.3 megawatts.
The plant has been closed since 2018, due to steam corrosion, as well as blockages and hydrothermal leaks in the steam pipes, which some experts have attributed to a lack of operational knowledge for plant staff.
The main challenge facing Toshiba, Toyota Tsusho and Egysem Energy is to build a power plant that can withstand steam corrosion.
The expansion of the Ethiopian project is being financed by the Japan International Cooperation Agency (JICA) and the International Development Association (IDA), an affiliate of the World Bank, according to Africa21.
In a separate context, the Ethiopian Electricity Company intends to cut its energy exports to Djibouti and Sudan in half starting this week, to maintain the stability of domestic supply and keep pace with the increasing demand in the holiday season.
Thermal energy in Africa
East Africa is considered the best geothermal region on the continent, thanks to the natural heat emanating from the bottom of the rift valley.
Kenya is the leading geothermal energy producer in Africa, and other countries are catching up without tangible achievements so far.
The rift valley region extends for more than 3,000 km from north to south from Eritrea to Mozambique, passing through the Great Lakes region, and the region has a high level of volcanic activity.
Underground natural heat can be harnessed to produce electricity, and the African Development Bank estimates the potential of geothermal energy in the Rift Valley at 20,000 megawatts.
The volcanic region of East Africa benefits from the simultaneous presence of heat and water, and the depth of a geothermal well can range between 2000 and 3000 meters. These wells retain hot water whose temperature can reach 300 degrees Celsius, and then the water loses its pressure when pumping and turns into steam.
When separated from the impurities, the compressed steam drives a turbine, and this mechanical energy is converted into electricity by an alternating current generator.
Most of the geothermal power plants in Africa are located in Kenya. The country has an installed capacity of electricity of 2,819 MW, of which 828 MW are from geothermal power plants in the west of the country.
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