Tag Archives: geothermal power

Birthing Geothermal Power in the Philippines (The NZ Legacy)

This week, the Philippine president visits New Zealand and Australia to promote strong economic and cultural ties. The relations of the Philippines and New Zealand runs deeper with the latter bequeathing its technical know-how in geothermal engineering, which became a catalyst in the former’s rise to world geothermal energy leadership.

As early as the 1950s, geothermal was already being studied by the eminent Filipino geothermal scientist Dr. Arturo Alacaraz. It was not brought to bigger scale until the oil crisis the creation of Energy Development Corporation, as the governmental arm in exploring and developing indigenous energy alternatives.

New technology was needed and the country had zero knowledge about developing that potent energy lying beneath dead volcanic systems. The Philippine Government signed a bilateral agreement with New Zealand. New Zealand was the logical choice because it was operating geothermal projects in its own country. The cooperation agreement provided a NZ$15 million technical assistance package that funded the exploration of the Tongonan and Palinpinon fields.  A drilling rig was  included in the assistance package.

There was another more natural reason for cooperation with New Zealand. While geothermal steam of such geothermal leaders as Italy and USA are vapor-dominated, New Zealand’s and the Philippines’ are both hot water-dominated. This makes New Zealand’s expertise more compatible with local conditions.

Within five months of EDC’s formation, the first deep exploration well had been drilled at Tongonan led by a motley crew of geologists, geochemists, volcanologists and geophysicists, with the addition of some recruits coming from the oil industry. By 1977, the 3-MW pilot plant in Tongonan was put up. Another 6-MW was ran after wells in Okoy 2 and Okoy 5 in Palinpinon were drilled.

Working with the New Zealand’s technical arm, KRTA, had always been impressive and the size and pace of geothermal development programs have been breathtaking. From Tongonan and Palinpinon, this synergy was brought to a higher level with the collaboration on the Unified Leyte project. The 700-MW steamfield was conceptualized, bidded out, constructed and commissioned in a remarkably short time frame of only three years.The Kiwis were impressed about this given the history of the Ohaaki field where the entire facility was commissioned some 20 years after production drilling had been completed.

Below is a collection of rare photos chronicling those formative years. Credits to the Public Relations Department of Energy Development Corporation for sharing these mementos.

Former Energy Minister (seated right) signs the bilateral agreement that would commence the PHL-NZ partnership leading to the country’s enviable position as one of the world’s top geothermal leader

A geothermal production well, circa 1977

A separator station is set up in Leyte

The mission aid talks served as the bridge that linked the NZ expertise with the Filipinos’ desire to learn wet steam technology

This aerial shot presents the newly minted Malitbog geothermal power plant located in Leyte. It was in the Tongonan Valley that geothermal struck big time. At 232.5, Malitbog is the world’s largest geothermal power station under one roof.


The Malitbog power plant is one of the powerhouses of the national electric grid, supplying clean geothermal power to Luzon island where much of the economic activities happen.


The Palinpinon steamfield, circa late 70s. A showcase of engineering ingenuity, this project is well known for its compact size, fitting into one manageable area the main components of a geothermal project — from multi-well pads for production to the fluid collection and recycling system that connects the steam fuel to the power station.


The Palinpinon steamfield today, a veritable source of geothermal power that supplies electricity to the Visayas grid.


The well discharge has become a symbolic image of the Philippines’ geothermal success story


UK’s largest geothermal project to be built in Manchester

Plans are revealed today by GT Energy that UK’s biggest commercial deep-geothermal heat plant is going to be developed in Ardwick district in Manchester. The news comes just weeks after the Anglo-Irish energy company announced that it had signed a memorandum of understanding with energy giant E.ON to jointly develop up to four urban geothermal heat networks.This brings to mind how the invention of the steam engine catapulted Manchester into the Industrial Age. This particular project , when commissioned successfully paves the way for similar viable projects in years to come. GT Energy is targeting untapped heat resource sitting beneath Manchester. The project intends to drill two wells around 3,000 meters deep at a half acre site in the district of the city to tap into the huge geothermal resource below.

Although planned only for 10MW capacity, said project will be able to supply direct heating to homes and businesses through a direct heating system in the area including the corridor of the University of Manchester that stretches along Oxford Road

The project was welcomed by Climate Change Minister Greg Barker, who hailed the initiative as “exactly the sort of innovative green project we want to see sprouting up across the country”.

The Manchester plant is part of GT Energy’s goal of developing 500MW of geothermal capacity across the country and will run alongside a number of projects that the company already has underway in the UK and Ireland.

Geothermal energy is seen by the government as a way of reducing the amount of emissions generated by producing heat, which stand at about a third of the country’s total as the vast majority of production relies on fossil fuels.

However, consultants Sinclair Knight Merz (SKM) said earlier this year the subsidies provided through Renewable Obligation Certificates (ROCs) and the Renewable Heat Incentive (RHI) are not sufficient to meet this target and the UK is at risk of missing out on market estimated to be worth £30bn by the end of the decade.

Meanwhile, on the other side of the world, the Philippines in particular, geothermal energy is a shining beacon of how indigenous resource has been fully tapped to provide a substantial share of clean electricity to the power grid. Power produced from geothermal resources averages from 12 to 18 percent of the Philippines’ energy supply mix, with another bigger chunk coming from natural gas, hydro and other renewable sources. The country is still an importer of oil but is not entirely dependent on it. Just this week I ran a story that the Philippine government has made new agreements with New Zealand to invest $8 billion worth of geothermal projects in the next 10 years or so. Indonesia, another country blessed with geothermal resources has been aggressively pushing for its expansion program as well with the Ring of Fire being promoted by World Wildlife Fund (WWF) and Energy Development Corporation (EDC), one of the world’s biggest vertically integrated geothermal company based in the Philippines. Both countries are world leaders in geothermal energy production with the former on the number two spot just behind USA while the latter is the third biggest producer.

(With news excerpts from Will Nichols of Business Green)

The Power of the Steam

Hi, i was out circulation for the past few weeks. I am writing my disseration for the past month and it’s now crunch time. I will be posting soon part 2 of Communicating Sustainability. For the mean time, here’s an article you guys might be interested.


At the dawn of the 18th century, a new way to use energy was invented – an engine powered by steam. The advent of steam engine brought about the rise of the machines: the spinning jenny, the flying shuttle, the power loom and of course, the steam ship.  Steam power sparked two important events in the history of man: the Industrial Revolution in 1800s and the Birth of Geothermal Power as a sustainable energy resource.

It was in Italy where the power of the steam was reinvented. The experiment carried out in 1904 by Prince Piero Ginori Conti in Larderello, Italy introduced yet another application of steam. The successful lighting of Larderello’s five bulbs catapulted the world into the bright dawn of geothermal age.

The world's largest geothermal wet steam field in Leyte at more 700 MW.

The birth of geothermal power came to the Philippines five decades later. It was in the summer of 1967 when Filipino geothermal pioneers, led by Dr. Arturo Alcaraz, successfully lighted an electric bulb using steam-powered electricity in Tiwi, a town near the world famous mayon volcano.  When the electric bulb lit up, the age of geothermal power in the Philippines has arrived.

The Tiwi demonstration presented a viable energy alternative. A strong policy support spurred the exploration and development of the vast volcanic systems spread over the entire archipelago. This prompted the construction of a 2.5kw pilot plant in Tiwi, Albay near the world-famous Mayon volcano which later became the site of the country’s first commercial geothermal field – the 275 mw Tiwi geothermal production field.

In 1971, the National Power Corporation commissioned the Makiling-Banahaw steam fields, then the world’s largest then at 425.7 megawatts.

Meanwhile, the Philippine government fast-tracked the exploration of other resource areas. It was for this purpose that the state-owned Philippine National Oil company created the subsidiary PNOC Energy Development Corporation (PNOC EDC) – to accelerate the development of indigenous energy sources to reduce dependence on imported fossil fuels.

From nothing, geothermal capacity in the Philippines had reached 784 megawatts in 1983, making the Philippines the world’s second largest producer of geothermal power. Major exploration drilling programs confirmed the development potential of BacMan in Sorsogon, Mt. Apo in Mindanao and a number of prospects in Leyte. In the early 90’s, EDC aggressively pursued the development of two more steam fields and the expansion of Leyte and Southern Negros. There occurred a very rapid build-up of generating capacity with the passage of the Build-Operate-Transfer (BOT) Law. It allowed geothermal companies to enter into power contracts with private contractors. Beginning 1993, PNOC EDC signed six BOT contracts for the construction and operation of 10 individual power plants with an aggregate total of 690 megawatts.

By 1997, EDC already had fully operating commercial steam fields in the islands of Luzon, Leyte, Mindanao and Negros with Leyte as the largest wet steam field in the world at 701 megawatts. No other single location in the world has been tapped for so much geothermal capacity to date. Leyte is also home to the world’s single largest power station – the 232.5-megawatt Malitbog power plant.

The Palinpinon steam field is a classic example of compact development built upon 60 hectares of ground space leveled from surrounding hills. Filipino geothermal engineers perfected the wet steam technology and mastered reservoir management.

In the new Philippine Energy Plan, the Philippine energy sector will install about 4,000 megawatts of clean energy from geothermal, wind, solar, hydro and biomass. These will bring the share of indigenous resources in the nation’s energy mix to nearly 40%. power generation from geothermal accounts for 19% of the country’s total electricity requirement. In 2004, the Philippines achieved no. 1 status in terms of geothermal contribution to the power mix at 18.6%.

The 150 MW geothermal power project in Bacman with a view of world famour Mayon Volcano.

The active participation of the private sector is critical to ensure sufficient and reliable energy supply. Also, electricity demand is expected to grow at an average annual rate of 7.2 percent. Reforms in the power market will definitely include strategic alliances with private investors in the aggressive development of renewable energy potentials like geothermal.  There is a vast area of geothermal resources waiting to be developed. We are only tapping less than half of the country’s 4,790 MW estimated potential! The Department of Energy is offering energy independence package through Geothermal Bidding and Contracting Rounds. including the 10 prospective geothermal sites with around 300 – 510 megawatts potential capacities.

On my next post, I will be discussing the country’s Renewable Energy Law and how it will affect the future of clean energy resources like geothermal.