The Geothermal Exploration Project

About the project - see Project database

The Icelandic International Development Agency (ICEIDA) and the Nordic Development Fund (NDF) launched in 2012 a project to support geothermal exploration in East Africa. ICEIDA is the Lead Agency in the Geothermal Exploration Project with joint co-financing of NDF. The project is the initial phase of the Geothermal Compact partnership, initiated jointly by the Ministry for Foreign Affairs in Iceland and the World Bank. The World Bank's Energy Sector Management Assistance Program (ESMAP) serves as the focal  point at the Bank for the Compact. 

13 countries in East Africa Rift Valley

The geothermal potential in Africa is mainly in the East Africa Rift Valley States (EARS) covering 13 countries from Eritrea in the north to Mozambique in the south. The project aims to mitigate and distribute the risk associated with geothermal exploration thus contributing to the acceleration of geothermal development in the region.

The main objective of the Geothermal Exploration Project is to assist all EARS countries in completing the exploratory phase of geothermal development and build capacity and expertise in the field of geothermal utilization and related policy. The project support will extend up to the stages of exploratory drilling.

The project will be demand-driven and activities funded by the project will be based on specific requests from governments in the countries of the region.

Project funding can cover the following activities:

1. Reconnaissance and geothermal exploration leading up to exploratory drilling

2. Technical assistance and capacity building

a. Training, e.g. through the UNU Geothermal Training Programme

b. Institutional capacity building

c. Policy and legal framework for geothermal utilization

Five years

The financial framework for the project is estimated at USD 13 million over a period of five years. The project could extend to 13 countries in the East Africa Rift Valley: Burundi, Comoros, Djibouti, DR Congo, Eritrea, Ethiopia, Kenya, Malawi, Mozambique, Rwanda, Tanzania, Uganda and Zambia.

At the end of the project it is expected that participating countries have 1) a realistic assessment of potential geothermal sites, 2) plans for further action where applicable, and 3) capacity to move forward on the basis of those plans and submit exploration drilling projects into funding pipelines.The Geothermal Exploration Project formally started in January 2013.

From Annual Report 2014:

The Geothermal Exploration Project  is jointly funded by The Icelandic International Development Agency (ICEIDA) and the Nordic Development Fund (NDF). The main objective is to assist countries in the East Africa Rift Valley conducting reconnaissance and surface exploration studies and  build capacity and expertise in the field of geothermal development and utilization. The project aims to assist countries to have 1) a realistic assessment of potential geothermal sites, 2) plans for further action where applicable with drilling targets identified, and 3) capacity to move forward on the basis of those plans and submit exploration drilling projects into funding pipelines.

The project is the initial phase of the Geothermal Compact partnership, initiated jointly by the Ministry for Foreign Affairs in Iceland and the World Bank. The World Bank's Energy Sector Management Assistance Program (ESMAP) serves as the focal point at the Bank for the Compact. ICEIDA liaises with the World Bank on a country basis as well as through annual coordination meetings.

As several organization and international institutions are active in providing assistance for geothermal development, ICEIDA participates in various coordination mechanisms to avoid duplications and create synergies. As noted above the project is implemented in good cooperation with the World Bank, and regular meetings are held with WB on project implementation and plans. A memorandum of understanding was also signed in September 2013 with the Africa Union Commission on coordination, cooperation and capacity building in the field of geothermal development. In May 2014 the Donor Coordination Meeting for Geothermal Development in East Africa was held in Iceland, in cooperation between AUC and ICEIDA.

ICEIDA has also signed an MoU with UNEP to coordinate geothermal activities and support regional networking and geothermal capacity building. ICEIDA has further cooperation with the European Union Delegation in Rwanda on the implementation of a  regional geothermal project in Burundi, Rwanda, and DRC, as well as providing assistance to the Delegation on matters pertaining to geothermal development.   

To date eleven countries have submitted requests for participation in the project, Ethiopia, Zambia, Tanzania, Burundi, Rwanda, Kenya, Djibouti, Uganda and Malawi, Comoros and Eritrea. The table below gives and overview of the implementation status in different countries:

Brief narrative summary of the implementation of project activities to date

· In Ethiopia the ICEIDA/NDF project is implemented by the Gelogical Survey of Ethiopia (EEP) and Ethiopia Electric Power (EEP)  in good cooperation with World Bank, and links with project activities of planned WB geothermal support in the country. Two surface exploration studies are underway, in Tendaho Alalobeda and in Aluto Langano. These two studies will conclude at the end of 2015, at which time the third study in Gedemsa is expected to start. The project has also provided technical assistance in defining technical specifications for drill rigs and drilling consumables in relation to World Bank planned support. A needs assessment of equipment for surface exploration was conducted and equipment procured in relation to the surface exploration studies. Preparations were well underway at the end of 2014 for various capacity building activities which will be implemented in 2015, including geothermal drill training, geothermal project management and preparations of bankable project documents.

· In Kenya, cooperation started in 2014 with the Geothermal Development Company (GDC), a wholly state owned company. This project will assist GDC to conduct the final stages of a surface exploration in the Suswa prospect, build capacity among GDC staff and assist GDC to achieve accreditation for the geochemical laboratory. Cooperation with Kenya also includes a feasibility study for the establishment of an African Geothermal Centre of Excllence. The objective is to assist with the establishment of a regional geothermal center of excellence and strengthen geothermal training in Kenya as well as to create regional opportunities for other countries to attend training in Kenya.  This is an exciting development which would create quality training opportunities for the East Africa region. As a part of the feasibility study a stakeholder/validation meeting will be held in Kenya in 2015, with country representatives and donors.

· Discussions have taken place with authorities in Uganda on potential cooperation, together with the World Bank. These discussions are ongoing.

· In Rwanda a capacity building programme for on-site training for geothermal drilling in relation to the drilling project in Karisimbi was completed in 2014. This training was been carried out by the UNU-GTP, and has focused on  borehole geology, drilling engineering, environmental matters, and well logging.  Further steps under implementation in Rwanda in 2104 included technical support to the government to provide technical and geoscientific advice related to planning of geothermal activities in Rwanda. A feasibility study for direct uses of geothermal in Rwanda, including drying of food items has also been completed.

· Discussions have taken place with authorities in Malawi on potential cooperation, together with the World Bank. These discussions are ongoing.

· In Zambia ICEIDA undertook a joint missions with the World Bank to explore potential support for geothermal activities. As a result of a request from ZESCO a study was initiated in the Kapisya area, which was meant to assist to determine the feasibility for energy production at the site. This report was finalized in 2014.

· An initial reconnaissance study was conducted in Burundi in 2013, subsequent to request from the country. Further steps have not been taken in Burundi but ICEIDA has been in cooperation with the European Union Delegation in Rwanda regarding a regional geothermal project which covers Rwanda, Burundi and DRC.

· In Djibouti discussions with authorities started in early 2014, and preparations were started for cooperation for a capacity building project which would mainly focus on geothermal surface exploration at Lake Abhe, drilling as well as geothermal project management and planning for the new agency ODDEG. It is expected that this project could start in 2015 and would fit in with subsequent geothermal activities in Djibouti.


· An ICEIDA mission first visited Tanzania in September 2013 for discussions with authorities on potential cooperation. Meetings were also held with AfDB, World Bank JICA and KfW. AfDB is managing SREP in Tanzania, which has a geothermal component. IN 2014 the Government established the Tanzanian Geothermal Development Company (TGDC), which subsequently submitted a request for geothermal support to the ICEIDA/NDF programme. After meetings with authorities in late 2014, a plan was made to conduct a reconnaissance study in three areas, this study is set to start early 2015. The aim of this study is to identify viable area for detailed surface exploration study, as well as make recommendation on training components.

·  Initial discussion have also taken place with the Comoros Islands, and with the World Bank and AfDB in that context. No further preparations have started.  

· In Eritrea, ICEIDA is in cooperation with UNEP, on the implementation of a surface exploration study in the Alid prospect. A cooperation agreement on this join project was signed with UNEP in December 2014.

Other cooperation and activities

AUC donor collaboration meeting and geothermal workshop

As a part of the cooperation with the Africa Union Commission, ICEIDA jointly hosted with the AUC, the geothermal donor collaboration meeting for East Africa in Iceland, May 26 2014. Institutions and countries presented their geothermal programs and plans in short presentations, followed by discussions on collaboration and cooperation among the various respective programs. The meeting was well attended by donor organizations and representatives from the countries in East Africa with an active geothermal program. The meeting was followed immediately by a two day geothermal workshop, specifically addressing issues facing donors and decision makers working on geothermal projects. ICEIDA was also been in discussions with the AUC in providing technical assistance for countries in improving the quality of the applications submitted to the GRMF.

Use of geothermal resources for drying of agricultural commodities in East Africa - Preliminary study to define feasibility

Direct use of geothermal resources is an important aspect of their contribution to energy needs in different countries, including Iceland. As a part of efforts to explore direct use option for geothermal in Africa, ICEIDA commissioned a study to explore potential uses of geothermal for drying of agricultural commodities in Rwanda and Kenya. The objective of this study is to provide an initial answer to the question if, and under what circumstances, geothermal resources could efficiently be used as a source of energy for drying of agricultural commodities in East Africa, with reference to both low and high enthalpy geothermal resources.  The assumption was that low as well as high temperature geothermal areas could provide energy for drying processes of items such as tea, fish, coffee, maize, pyrethrum, and tobacco at a lower cost and in a more environmentally sustainable manner than current energy sources. This study is expected provide further information and initial analysis on the potential to use geothermal energy for drying processes and subsequently further pre-feasibility studies may be initiated within the ICEIDA/NDF programme to explore potential pilot projects.

Report on Geothermal Binary Power Plants

As a part of the efforts to understand the potential for geothermal energy production in East Africa, ICEIDA commissioned a study on geothermal binary power plants. The report is intended to contribute to discussions on the possibilities for electricity generation from geothermal resources in East Africa Rift Valley States, as a part of the ICEIDA and NDF funded Geothermal Exploration Project. The objective is to explore the feasibility, and factors that influence feasibility, of electricity production from binary power plants in the context of low temperature geothermal areas, providing a reference point for further discussions once the resource potentials in the various countries are recognized.

Finalization of geothermal database for East Africa

ICEIDA has provided support to ARGeo/UNEP in the development of an information database for geothermal projects and resources in East Africa. The database is managed by ARGeo with participation from focal points in each country. The database was formally launched at the Argeo C-5 conference in Arusha in October 2014. It is expected that this database will be very useful for stakeholders involved in geothermal development in East Africa, as relevant information will now be updated and accessible in one place.