MagEnergy said its Phase 1 emergency repairs and refurbishment works to upgrade the Inga II hydropower scheme in the Democratic republic of Congo (DRC) should be completed by June.
The Canada-based firm said that it also had recently received a measure of further political support for its Phase 2 plan to refurbish four more turbines but said more support was needed.
Phase 1 involves repairs to three units and emergency refurbishment of one unit – the 172MW, G-23 turbine. A year ago the runner of G-23 was extracted and it said then that Phase 1 works were expected to be completed by about the end of 2007. The budget given then for Phase 1 is US$25M, and no further details have been issued.
The Phase 2 works had been estimated to commence in late 2007 and had a budget of US$110M. Again, no further details on the budget has been given.
Inga II was built on the Congo river and commissioned in 1982 with eight turbines, but years of reduced demand and restricted maintenance budgets cut back the operational output to approximately 350MW. Combined with its sister plant, Inga I, which has six units of 52MW capacity, the plants have only had outputs of about 700MW in recent years despite total installed capacity of more than 1700MW.
MagEnergy, a unit of MagIndustries Corp, is performing the refurbishment under a public private partnership (PPP) agreement, signed in mid-2005, with Societe Nationale d’Electricite (SNEL) - the DRC’s electricity commission. Following the initial PPP deal, the company was joined in the PPP venture by South Africa-based Industrial Development Coporation (IDC).
The firms are sharing the programme costs and a year ago it was forecast that first revenues from the re-commissioning of the units would be this year. The PPP deal includes a revenue-sharing arrangement with SNEL. Consultant Ingerop undertook the technical studies for the programme prior to the PPP deal.
Earlier this month the company received a measure of political support for its Phase 2 plans in the firm of a letter from DRC Prime Minister, Antoine Gizenga. It said the letter was welcome encouragement but said that there remained further bureaucratic steps in DRC processes to complete before work could begin.
Last year, the World Bank approved a grant of almost US$300M to boost the power market in DRC in line with efforts to rehabilitate the existing Inga hydro power schemes. The bank said that the works on the plants - Inga I and Inga II - would see capacity increased from 700MW to 1300MW of reliable production.
Separately, mining group BHP Billiton also last year agreed to fund the feasibility study for Inga III hydro power project. Following concept studies, the feasibility study are to run alongside plans for a 800,000 tonnes/year aluminium smelter. The smelter would require 2000MW of power from the hydroelectric plant.
In 2003-4, South Africa utility Eskom was involved in investigating the development of Inga III with 3500MW at an estimated cost of US$4B. Back then, the scheduled completion date was around 2010-12 and the project was seen as the first phase of the long conceived 40GW Grand Inga hydro power scheme.