KenGen now eyes power from geothermal waste

Kenya Electricity Generating Company. FILE PHOTO | POOL

KenGen now targets to generate electricity from geothermal brine, the hot salty water that is pumped from underground to the surface and converted to a gas that turns turbines to generate electricity.

Presently, most of this brine is re-injected back into the earth reservoirs in KenGen’s geothermal fields for the regeneration of more steam to run turbines. “Instead of channelling the brine directly back into the earth, it can be directed through turbines to generate power and supplement what is generated through the steam that is passed through turbines,” an official at the company said.

KenGen, which is Kenya’s largest power producer, says it currently generates 4,000 tonnes of brine per hour and re-injects it into the 180 production wells at Olkaria in Naivasha. The firm has now commissioned a feasibility study to probe the possibility of generating power from brine to supplement its generation from steam.

“KenGen intends to utilise this considerable amount of heat energy in the separated brine for additional power generation using binary technology,” said the firm in a notice. If successful, it means the company will increase its generation capacity by producing power from both geothermal steam as well as brine without needing to drill new wells, which is expensive.

The company’s strategy is to increase its generation capacity through renewable energy sources that include optimisation of existing renewable resources in geothermal and hydro.

KenGen is seeking to hire a consultant who has an annual turnover of at least $3 million (Sh481.5 million) and will undertake the feasibility study.

“It is in view of the above that KenGen wishes to engage a consultant to carry out a detailed examination and study of the brine production from Olkaria fields, analyse the physical quality and quantity of the brine for reinjection,” said the firm.

However, KenGen’s plan could hinge heavily on the findings of the consultant especially regarding the chemical composition of the brine at Olkaria.

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