Geothermal Development Company (GDC) has installed simulators at its training complex for virtual training of its technicians on drilling steam wells.
GDC, which is fully owned by the government, is running the simulation training at its Geothermal Centre of Excellence in Nakuru, in Kenya’s Rift.
“By simulating actual drilling conditions and procedures, our rig operators gain more experience in handling different drilling conditions,” the company said in an update.
“Our specialised simulator provides a detailed experience of drilling operations on a virtual rig illustrating processes such as pipe-handling, tripping in, tripping out, mud system operation, cementing operations and well control training.”
The GDC is mandated to drill exploration wells in search of steam on behalf of investors to derisk the venture before handing them over to power producers who pay for the steam that they convert to electricity for sale.
It currently earns the bulk of its revenues from geothermal steam sales in Olkaria, Naivasha to power producer KenGen who converts the steam to electricity.
GDC has so far developed 544MW of steam out of which 320MW has been added to the national grid by KenGen. The geothermal firm has other contracts in Menengai fields in Nakuru to sell steam to three independent power producers (IPPs) – Mauritian firm Quantum Power, American firm Ormat Technologies and Kenyan firm Sosian Energy – owned by Steel and cement tycoon Narendra Raval. The three power plants will have a total installed capacity of 105MW, each 35MW upon construction. Groundwork is still being laid.
Kenya sees geothermal as an attractive low-cost renewable energy source with low emissions and serves as a stable, reliable base-load electricity. It has helped quicken Kenya’s march towards renewables, with the country’s generation mix currently at 93 percent, nearly half from geothermal.
GDC boasts the largest steam well in Africa, Well 1A (30.6MW) in Menengai, Nakuru.
The wonder well has in the past given the agency the bragging rights.
A standard well on average yields only five 5MW, meaning GDC wonder well is equivalent to six wells. Drilling a single well costs an average $5 million (Sh500 million). Some wells turn out dry, returning losses to investors in terms of sunk costs.
GDC has seven operational rigs and also earns part of its revenues from consultancy and training services.
Its geothermal centre of excellence targets specialists from east Africa looking to enter the geothermal labour pool, including geologists, geophysicists, geochemists as well as reservoir and drilling engineers.
The targeted nations are those located along the Rift Valley belt – Kenya, Burundi, Comoros, Djibouti, Democratic Republic of Congo, Eritrea, Ethiopia, Malawi, Mozambique, Rwanda, Uganda, Tanzania and Zambia.
“Our centre of excellence offers comprehensive short course programs in geothermal energy development. The trainings are carried out by GDC experts and are continually evaluated in line with industry requirements,” the company says.
“The geothermal centre of excellence seeks to bridge the skill gap in geothermal development in countries found along the East African Rift System (EARS).”
GDC also operates a geochemistry lab in Menengai.
“The lab is well equipped to carry out a range of services including; thin sectioning and petrographic analysis, petrochemistry using a modern X-ray fluorescence machine and X-ray diffraction (XRD) analysis. The data provide insights into the nature of the geothermal resources,” reads the company’s update.