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Quantifying Nicaragua’s Geothermal Potential

Client: Comisión Nacional de Energía (CNE)
Location: Nicaragua
Date: 1999 to 2001

Project Goals

To assist in planning and promoting geothermal development, the federal government of Nicaragua hired GeothermEx to produce a geothermal master plan for the country. This massive undertaking, conducted over a three-year period, assessed the country’s existing and potential geothermal resources in terms of resource quality and environmental issues and ranked the resources in terms of development priority. Critical issues included available megawatts, the size of the resource, the potential for transmission access and other pertinent factors such as environmental protection.

The GeothermEx Approach

In the course of the project, the GeothermEx team was tasked with assessing the entire volcanic cordillera of western Nicaragua, closely evaluating ten different sites, one of which hosts an operating project and a second which had a small project under development. The remaining eight required significant new assessment. GeothermEx began with extensive field work that included hiring and training local personnel. Together with this in-country team, GeothermEx obtained and evaluated all previous reports and analyses, and subsequently undertook detailed assessments of each resource area using a wide range of techniques (field geology, mapping, water and gas sampling, fluid chemistry analyses geophysical surveys, etc.). To evaluate the generation potential of areas with limited resource information, GeothermEx designed a customized program to estimate subsurface heat content based on recent volcanic activity.

Outcomes

The final product for this project was an exhaustive, 11-volume report that prioritized the Nicaraguan geothermal sites in terms of their development potential. The team also produced a detailed map of the country, annotated with all significant geothermal information, and a database of fluid chemistry information. The pace of geothermal development is now increasing in Nicaragua, and various entities (including government planning agencies) are using the Master Plan to guide their activities.