Reopening of the Guatapé hydroelectric plant in Colombia

PUBLISHED: 16 Nov 16

Prysmian Group made a successful effort to face the emergency and restore service in the shortest time possible
Prysmian Group made a successful effort to face the emergency and restore service in the shortest time possible

Prysmian Mexico has successfully completed the joint effort undertaken by the Group with its clients EPM - Empresas Públicas de Medellín, a residential public utilities company in Colombia - and CFE - Mexico's state-owned Federal Electricity Commission - to face emergency and restore service in the shortest time possible at the Guatapé hydroelectric plant in Colombia.

The Central Guatapé is the largest dam in Colombia. Located in Antioquia, the plant was built in the late 1960's and is owned by the utility EPM. The plant has a generating capacity of 560 MW delivered through eight sets of Pelton turbines, each one generating 70 MW and it produces around 4% of the total generation capacity in Colombia. The turbines are located in the powerhouse which is approximately 400 metres underground and the generated power is exported through 4 circuits of 230 kV oil-filled cables through a single 2.3 km long tunnel.

In February, the hydroelectric plant was damaged by a fire that took place due to a technical failure in the roundhouse and required the replacement of the 230 kV oil-filled cables with repair actions needed in the shortest time possible.

Knowing well the emergency situation and its potential effects, Prysmian offered EPM to negotiate with another of its customers in Mexico (CFE) that had already in their warehouses the necessary cables to help its Colombian counterpart. As a matter of fact, Prysmian had previously supplied 230 kV XLPE cables to the Mexican utility CFE, but these had not yet been installed at the time of the fire in Guatapé. Therefore, Prysmian Mexico proposed that CFE lent 30 km of 230 kV 1200mm2 XLPE cable in order to replace the four oil-filled power cable circuits at Guatapé and to arrange urgent reinstatement of the cables on stock for CFE. The total value of the project for Prysmian was in the range of 15,000 k USD (of which 8,000 k for the cable portion only).

Following all necessary agreements and authorizations, the Mexican government supported Colombia with the loan of 57 reels for a total of 30 kilometers of 230 kV power cable, manufactured by the Group. In normal circumstances, the 230 kV cables would be transported by ship from Veracruz in Mexico to Cartagena, a journey that usually takes from six to eight days. From there the cables would travel nearly 700 km over land from the port of Cartagena to the hydro plant in Guatapé near Medellin.

EPM, however, did not have time on their side and pursued an unconventional solution: the cables together with tools and accessories were therefore shipped from Mexico to Rionegro's José Maria Córdova airport in Colombia, using two Ukraine-flagged, Russian-built Antonov 124-100 specialized transport aircraft. The transport required eight round trips between Mexico City and Rionegro.A team of 100 EPM staff from different departments in the organisation, together with 15 Mexican Prysmian specialists, worked to re-establish operations at the Guatapé hydroelectric plant even before the planned date (July 2016) and the reopening event was celebrated in June, at the presence of Colombian government authorities.

"We are very pleased to have collaborated in this project for EPM. Having managed to finish ahead of time is a great satisfaction for us as a company. We know that this would not have been possible without the help of a great ally in this event: the Comisión Federal de Electricidad [Mexican utility], to them our appreciation and gratitude," stated Jaouad Ben-Hamman, CCO of Prysmian Mexico.

"For Prysmian it was a great honour to play a key role in a project of this magnitude, building on the brotherhood of two countries that helped strengthening friendship ties between Mexico and Colombia," he added.

Prysmian Group, Italy
Tel: + 39 02 6449 1

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