Kenya: GDC Launches Direct-Use Applications of Geothermal Steam

Kenya's Geothermal Development Company (GDC) has initiated Direct-Use applications of geothermal steam to power industrial processes.

By Diana Wachira on
20th November 2021

As of 2020 more than 50% of the electricity generated in Kenya was derived from geothermal energy.

Geothermal energy is natural heat energy stored in the sub-surface of the earth, and is a renewable energy source because the heat inside the earth is continuously produced.

To extract this energy, wells are drilled to tap steam and water at high temperatures (250oC - 350oC) and pressures (600psi - 1200psi), and at depths of between 1 to 3 kilometers. For electricity generation, the steam is piped to a turbine, which rotates a generator to produce electrical energy.

In order to fast-track the development of geothermal resources, the Kenya government set up the Geothermal Development Company Limited (GDC) as a 100% government-owned corporation and Special Purpose Vehicle (SPV) for surface exploration, drilling and management of geothermal reservoirs. 

While the steam produced from the natural heat of the ground is mainly used for electricity generation, GDC is also promoting alternative 'Direct-Uses' of the steam for a range of applications.

For example, companies could purchase the steam produced by GDC's geothermal wells and use it directly for agricultural applications such as to heat plants in greenhouses, to dry crops and to heat water in fish farms. The steam produced by geothermal wells can also be used in agro-industrial processes, such as milk pasteurisation. In the tourism sector, companies can use geothermal heat in spas. The geothermal heat can also be used to provide hot water or cook food. 

Essentially, industries that require heat for their processes can use this geothermal energy as a green option. According to GDC Engineer, Esther Njuguna, the direct use of geothermal steam for industrial processes will lower the cost of power by 70%. In the YouTube video below, GDC shows examples of direct uses of geothermal heat and discusses GDC's research work at their Menengai Geothermal Project area.

In August 2020, GDC signed a collaboration agreement with the Nakuru County government for the utilisation of geothermal energy. 

Nakuru County is home to GDC’s Menengai Geothermal Project which has an estimated geothermal energy potential of 1600 MW. Several geothermal wells have already been drilled at the Menengai geothermal site. In addition to the provision of steam for power generation to electricity producers once the power plants are ready, the Menengai geothermal project also houses a demonstration site which showcases various Direct-Uses of geothermal energy, including pasteurization, aquaculture, greenhouse heating, a laundromat and a grain dryer.

Speaking during the signing ceremony of the collaboration agreement between GDC and the Nakuru County, Lee Kinyanjui, the Governor of Nakuru County, stated that “This agreement will foster a partnership that will see Direct Use of geothermal resources used in agro-processing, breeding of fish, pasteurization among other uses. Geothermal technology will be used in food production hence increase productivity.”

Steam Gathering System at Menengai Geothermal Development Field (gdc.co.ke) 
Steam Gathering System at Menengai Geothermal Development Field (gdc.co.ke)

In May 2021, the GDC invited potential investors to submit expressions of interest for the direct use of the geothermal steam produced at the Menengai geothermal project site in Kenya's Rift Valley. Proposed investments included in the submitted expressions of interest were required to be located adjacent to the Menengai geothermal field to reduce energy losses and infrastructural costs arising from the requirement to transport the geothermal energy through pipelines.

GDC confirmed that the following infrastructural facilities would be available to approved investment projects utilising geothermal energy from the Menengai field for Direct-Uses:

1. Thermal Energy  
    (a) Geothermal Steam  
          - Temperature Up to 165oC
          - Pressure Up to 7 bars absolute
          - Flow Rate 200 t/hr
    (b) Geothermal Brine  
          - Temperature Up to 165oC
          - Pressure Up to 7 bars absolute
          - Flow Rate 500 t/hr
     (c) Heated Raw Water  
          - Temperature Up to 100oC
          - Pressure Atmospheric Pressure
2. Available Land 1800 acres
3. Fresh Cold Water Borehole & Municipal Council water
4. Roads Well maintained murram roads
5. Electricity Supply from Kenya Power Company
6. Telecommunications Good telecommunication network is available

Interested investors had until 24 May 2021 to submit their expressions of interest.

Top Photo: Olk 04 to 08 power plants at the Olkaria Geothermal Field in Kenya (Green Energy Group | geg.ke)  

 

 

 

 

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