Geothermal Country Update for Ecuador, 2000 - 2005

Due mainly to its favorable geodynamic setting along the active convergent plate margin of Southamerica, characterized by a broad continental volcanic arc with numerous active volcanoes and intense seismicity, and to the elevated oil prices of the time, Ecuador started the exploration of its geothermal resources about 30 years ago, aiming on high enthalpy prospects, suitable for electricity production.Exploration for geothermal resources was carried out from the mid 1970s through the early 1990s by ecuadorean government institutions (former INECEL and INE) with the aid of foreign technical assistance programs (mainly OLADE, IAEA, UNDP). Reconnaissance studies focused on areas with recent volcanic and tectonic activity in the Plio-Quaternary volcanic arc, which covers most of the northern andean highlands of Ecuador. Results from geo-scientific surveys revealed the presence of several active hydrothermal systems. Tufioo-Chiles, Chachimbiro and Chalupas appeared as the most promissing prospects, with deep temperatures in excess of 200 ?C and a combined potential of about 500 Mwe. This potential was inferred from surface data only, since no geothermal exploratory wells have been drilled yet in Ecuador. A dozen other geothermal prospects, related to silicic calderas and /or evolved stratovolcanoes can substantially increase the inferred potential, but quantitative data are scarce or even nonexistent. Other areas of interest, including the Galapagos hot spot islands, still remain unexplored.Low to medium temperature resources are abundant along the volcanic arc and are mainly related to recent NNE strike slip faulting and local pull appart structures; these geothermal resources are not confined to the volcanic highlands, but are also present in the fore-arc plains as well as in back-arc areas, mostly related to deep cutting basement faults. As for now, geothermal utilization in Ecuador is currently restricted to direct use in swimming pools, only. Basic research, applicable to geothermal is done, scarcely, at few universities.Geothermal is considered a renewable non-conventional type of energy, together with solar, wind, biomass and others. CONELEC and MEM (Ministry of Energy and Mines) are the leading national agencies for energy issues and promote the use of renewable resoures by assigning them a especial status regarding priority for development and connection to the national grid, as well as a favorable price for selling electricity.The energy market is dominated by Hydro (50.6 %) and Fossil Fuel (49.4 %) generation, with a total installed capacity of 3451 Mwe, yielding a gross electricity production of 12357 GWh/yr (as of Dec 2002). Production from renewable energy sources in Ecuador, including geothermal, solar and wind, is still neglegible, but is planned to increase in the future. The Tufioo-Chiles geothermal prospect owns the especial status of Bi-National Project, due to its location on the Ecuador-Colombia border. This and several other high and low-medium temperature geothermal prospects in Ecuador await state and private investment to be developed in order to lessen the dependence on fossil fuel use. Finally, in Ecuador, geothermal energy is challenged to be cost-efficient in front of an abundant hydro resource, as well as to be environmentally safe.

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Citation Date 2005-01-01T00:00:00

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Original ID fade45bd-d779-4500-9c4b-bef59a67927b
Index Date 2015-11-19T02:19:51
Original Format ISO-USGIN
Original Version 1.2

Author

Name Bernardo Beate, Rodney Salgado
Organization World Geothermal Congress
Email horne@stanford.edu

Geographic Extent

North Bound 1.6647727
South Bound -5.0143511
East Bound -75.188794
West Bound -92.0107728