Olkaria I Rehabilitation Feasibility Study

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Client: Kenya Electricity Generating Company
Location: Kenya

With Africa’s first geothermal power plant in steady decline and Kenya’s demand for electricity rapidly growing, Kenya Electricity Generating Company needed to know its best option to keep an important national resource productive. Should the existing plant be rehabilitated to modern standards or replaced with a new state-of-the-art facility at the productive Olkaria resource field? To answer this question, KenGen hired a team of geothermal experts led by POWER Engineers to study the feasibility of the two options and to develop the most cost-effective plan for continue producing electric power from the plant’s resource.

The first unit of the Olkaria I Geothermal Power Plant was commissioned in 1981. Unit 2 and Unit 3 soon followed in 1982 and 1985, respectively. The first of its kind for the continent, the three units have reliably generated electricity from steam drawn from the East Africa Rift for over three decades. At peak production, the plant is capable of generating 45 MW of electricity. Over time, however, the plant has lost efficiency, replacement parts have become difficult to find, and advances in technologies now offer KenGen attractive options for greater power production and higher financial returns from the same resource.

The POWER team’s purpose was to conduct a feasibility study and recommend a course of action that was the best technical, financial, and economic solution for future generation from the plant’s resource. To do this, POWER led a team of experts on a site visit to evaluate the current conditions of the facilities and then assess its potential against that of a new facility. The study considered new technologies, the productivity of the resource, operation and maintenance of the plant and steamfield, and environmental impacts. POWER evaluated the power plant components, Turbocare, Inc., conducted a turbine condition assessment, Veizades and Associates assessed the steamfield and injection systems, and Nairobi-based Log Associates prepared an ESIA report and decommissioning plan. The team’s findings were entered into POWER’s financial model to compare the financial and economic performance of the options.

In the end, the study concluded a major rehabilitation of the Olkaria I plant provided the best solution to meet KenGen’s goals. This option included an upgrade and modernization of the key plant components while maintaining the basic design structure of the facility. The team presented its findings and an environmental review of this option to KenGen’s management and staff during a one-week session in Nairobi. This was followed by a second week of training with selected staff members.