Wednesday, June 29, 2011

Inga hydro project on Congo river too risky-AfDB

Inga hydro project on Congo river too risky-AfDB
Wed Jun 29, 2011 1:16pm GMT

* Alternative plan may be cheaper
* BHP Billiton seen as potential client

CAPE TOWN, June 29 (Reuters) - Current plans to develop the stalled $8-
$10 billion Inga 3 hydropower project on the Congo river may be too
risky because of costs and time, a senior African Development Bank
(AfDB) official said on Wednesday.

The bank is financing a study for the Democratic Republic of Congo
(DRC) government to optimize development of the Congo river's immense
hydropower potential, with a pre-feasibility study expected in

Current plans for the development of the Inga 3 project entail
drilling up to 70 kilometres of tunnels into rock formations whose
geology is not well known, and only drawing a maximum of 3,500
megawatts of power.

Hela Cheikhrouhou, director energy and environment at AfDB, told
Reuters on the sidelines of a G20 infrastructure meeting that
preliminary findings suggested this was a very risky option because it
could cost more and take more time than anticipated.

Cheikhrouhou said the findings showed it would be better to remove the
tunnelling option in favour of open channels which could be helped
with a dam.

"With that solution, the DRC government ... could build a 3,500 up to
7,000 megawatt project which will be per cost of electricity generated
cheaper, faster to implement and less risky," Cheikhrouhou said.

"We think this is actually a game-changer," she said.

The Inga 3 hydropower scheme on the Congo is one of the largest
proposed projects in Africa aimed at overcoming power shortages that
have curtailed economic growth.

Cheikhrouhou said rough estimates suggested it would cost in the
region of $7 billion for a 3,500 MW project, doubling to $14 billion
for 7,000 MW, with first power only likely in 2020 in what would be a
public-private partnership.

She said global mining group BHP Billiton , South Africa and Nigeria
would probably be the main clients.

(Reporting by Wendell Roelf, editing by Ed Stoddard and Keiron

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