A geothermal power
plant in Kenya.
 
Nairobi, Kenya — ESI-AFRICA.COM — 30 January 2011 – The Export-Import Bank of China and the French Development Agency have pledged to lend Kenya US$163 million this year to buy five drilling rigs to tap steam reserves in the country “’ Africa’s biggest geothermal power producer.

Confirming this in a statement here, state-run Geothermal Development Company (GDC ) CEO Silas Simiyu revealed that Exim Bank would provide US$90 million for three of the facilities, and the government-owned Agence Francaise de Developement would be responsible for the balance. The equipment would probably be delivered in 2013, he told reporters in Baringo, about 200km northwest of the capital.

Kenya “’ East Africa’s biggest economy “’ is scaling up its search for underground steam deposits with a US$2.6 billion, 10- year plan to sink 566 wells at Olkaria, Menengai and Silali in the Great Rift Valley, where shifting tectonic plates provide a key source of the energy.

The goal is to find enough steam to generate 2 336MW of power by 2020 in a bid to ease dependency on the country’s main hydroelectric providers, Simiyu said. Kenya rationed power to homes and businesses between August and October 2009 after a drought depleted dam levels, weighing on economic growth.

“Once the ramping up of geothermal development takes place, the issue of power-generation shortages will no longer exist,” Simiyu said.

Kenya currently has 212 megawatts of installed capacity at geothermal power plants in Olkaria.

In November, the Kenyan government acquired two drilling rigs at a cost of US$35 million each from China National Petroleum Corporation. With them, GDC is expected to begin drilling this week at the central Menengai field, aiming to find sufficient reserves to feed a 400MW power plant by 2014, Simiyu said.

Kenya currently has three drilling rigs leased from Great Wall Drilling Company of China, which are deployed in Olkaria. The country aims to own a total of 12 rigs within the next few years for geothermal exploration, Simiyu added.

Kenya estimates the extent of its unexploited power resources ranges from 7 000 to 10 000MW at 14 “high-potential” locations valued at US$30 billion, according to a company statement handed to reporters.