Faced with a dearth of projects, Icelandic engineering companies have increasingly been looking overseas for work. They are being supported by the government and even by the President directly, to win projects for tapping geothermal energy abroad.
Katrin Juliusdottir, minister for industry, hosted Indian energy minister Dr. Farooq Abdullah in September to step up cooperation between the two countries in geothermal energy. At the World Economic Forum in Tianjin, President Olafur Ragnar Grimsson discussed geothermal energy projects with Chinese Prime Minister Wen Jiabao, and signed an agreement on digging for geothermal energy in Inner Mongolia. The new energy will be used for district heating, greenhouse cultivation and electricity. Icelandic firm Enex has been working in Shaanxi in China and will also work on the Mongolian project.
Iceland is looking further. “In East Africa utilization of the geothermal potential could free the people of several nations from the bondage of energy poverty,” foreign minister Ossur Skarphedinsson told the UN General Assembly late September.
State-owned Iceland GeoSurvey (ISOR) is one of the more experienced companies. Set up in 1945 as part of the National Energy Authority, it has worked on geothermal projects in more than 40 countries.
“In Kenya, Uganda and Djibouti, ISOR has carried out geothermal exploration and related activities, while it has also carried out well testing in Germany, numerical modeling in China and capacity building within the governmental sector in Nicaragua,” says ISOR spokesperson Brynja Jonsdottir.
“ISOR is also responsible for much of the teaching and training carried out at the Geothermal Training Program of the United Nations University (UNU- GTP), and launched several training courses this year in Indonesia and Kenya (1-11 weeks) in cooperation within UNU-GTP.”
Together with the Icelandic engineering company Verkis, ISOR has set up the company GeoThermHydro based in Chile. “GeoThermHydro offers services encompassing the major portion of the work comprising the development of geothermal and hydropower plants,” managing director Carlos Jorquera tells IPS. “This entails drilling consultation, field management, steam gathering systems, dams, power transmission facilities, consultation on and management of power station construction.”
Last May, Reykjavik Energy and Mitsubishi Heavy Industries signed an agreement to cooperate on geothermal ventures overseas. Reykjavik Energy will lead the venture but Iceland GeoSurvey and three engineering companies — Mannvit, EFLA and Verkis — are also involved, along with a drilling company and two architect studios.
“But it is still in the beginning stages,” says Kristjan B. Olafsson from Reykjavik Energy Invest (REI), the international arm of Reykjavik Energy.
“REI has been working mainly in Djibouti in the Assal Rift Valley. The pre- feasibility study for a geothermal plant has been completed, and four boreholes have been dug, 2.5 km deep. This is thought to be sufficient steam, energy and pressure for the project. But negotiations are still ongoing about the next stage.”
“Mannvit is principally working in Hungary, where we are working with the Hungarian firm Pannergy and have 14-15 projects on the go, although we also have offices in Germany and the UK and one project still going in Slovakia. Our newest project is in Santiago,” says Runolfur Maack, director of overseas operations with the company.
EFLA signed an agreement in June with Croatian energy firm Energy Institut Hrovje Pozar with the aim of strengthening the development of geothermal utilization and other forms of energy production in Croatia and some of the Balkan countries. EFLA has also set up a company called Turkison in Turkey undertaking geothermal exploration with a view to designing geothermal power plants for district heating.
One company involved in the overseas market is Reykjavik Geothermal, founded in 2008 purely for geothermal projects abroad. “We are working in Abu Dhabi, Kenya, Papua New Guinea and India,” says Gudmundur Thoroddsson, managing director of the company.
Another company, Envent, was set up by REI and Geysir Green Energy to work on geothermal projects in the Philippines and Indonesia. Its biggest current project is on Biliran, an island in the Eastern Visayas region of the Philippines, where a 50MW geothermal power plant is due to come on line in 2012.
The bank Islandsbanki (formerly known as Glitnir) has now a special geothermal energy team. The division was set up in 2006 and includes financial advisors “who are specialized in giving advice about geothermal projects,” says the team’s executive director, Arni Magnusson.
CITATION: Lowana Veal, Energy: Little Iceland Digs Deep and Far for More, Inter Press Service, October 11, 2010