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Tel: (775) 398-3700
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Email: sscott@ram-power.com

San Jacinto-Tizate

 

Project Description and Location

The San Jacinto Project is located in the northwest of Nicaragua, near the city of Leon, approximately 90 km northwest of Managua.  The San Jacinto Project exploitation agreement covers an area of 40 km2.

The San Jacinto Project is being developed under an exploitation agreement (the “San Jacinto Exploitation Agreement”) between PENSA and MEM signed in 2001. The term of the San Jacinto Exploitation Agreement is for 25 years, extendable for an additional 10-year term. The San Jacinto Exploitation Agreement has an investment schedule outlining the various milestones that the Company must meet in its development of the San Jacinto Project. Non-compliance with these milestones may cause the San Jacinto Exploitation Agreement to be terminated by MEM. As of the date of this AIF, the Company is currently in compliance with all of the milestones under the agreement. The generation license held by PENSA allows for generation of 72 MW (net) from the San Jacinto Project for a 30-year term that commenced in December 2003.

Nicaraguan legislation requires that electrical generation projects obtain an environmental permit from the Ministry of the Environment and Natural Resources (“MARENA”).  Issuance of the permit requires an Environmental Impact Assessment (“EIA”) demonstrating that the plant’s activities will not cause significant environmental impacts.

An EIA for the San Jacinto Project (the “San Jacinto Project EIA”) was submitted to MARENA in July 2003. The San Jacinto Project EIA covered the range of potential environmental and socio-economic impacts during the San Jacinto Project’s plant construction and operational phases, and evaluated their possible impact. It also covered potential risks to the plant from extreme natural events and presented a contingency plan in the event such events occur. The San Jacinto Project EIA concluded that the main environmental impacts of the project are on air quality and noise, which can easily be mitigated through chimneys, silencers, forestry, sound barriers and the use of personal protection by staff. The project was viewed as generating significant positive socio-economic impact in the form of employment and electricity generation, and also positive environmental impact in the form of mitigating climate change. MARENA issued its final environmental permit for the San Jacinto Project on September 18, 2003.  Subsequently, MARENA issued an environmental permit to PENSA for the expansion of the San Jacinto Project to 72 MW (net).  The EIA for the Technological Reconversion Project in San Jacinto-Tizate for the generation of 72 MW (net) using Fuji turbines was finalized in November of 2009.

The Company believes that the necessary permits and approvals for the San Jacinto Project have been obtained to operate the plant and the steam field at the designed 72 MW (net) of net generation capacity. 

San Jacinto Tizate project

Accessibility, Climate, Local Resources, Infrastructure and Physiography

The San Jacinto Project site is located near the village of San Jacinto, a small settlement adjacent to the established base camp. The San Jacinto Project is accessible by the Pan-American Highway and has internal roads to access work sites. Paved road access passes through San Jacinto and provides access to the base camp, which is north of the village of San Jacinto.  A gravel road turns off from the southern edge of the village of San Jacinto, and provides access to the site while bypassing the village. The work sites are located in rolling hills not visible from the village of San Jacinto. Leon, the second largest city in Nicaragua, is located 20 km to the west and provides the main pool of labor.  Labor is also sourced from Managua which is 90 km to the southeast. The San Jacinto Project is connected to the high voltage electrical grid through a dedicated 13 km power line that connects both the Leon and Santa Barbara substations. Water for plant operation is available from local wells. The climate in the area is generally hot and dry, but with seasonal heavy rainfall.  

History of the Property

The first geoscientific studies in the area of the San Jacinto Project concession were conducted in 1953 and consisted of measurements of heat flow from the surface manifestations at San Jacinto and Tizate. Steam was also observed to be flowing from shallow wells in the area. From 1969 to 1971, the United States Agency for International Development implemented a geothermal exploration program over the western part of Nicaragua, managed by Texas Instruments Inc. Based on the results of this program, the San Jacinto-Tizate area was identified as having a high priority for development. The program included a range of surface exploration surveys and the drilling of four shallow temperature gradient wells, one of which encountered a temperature of 105°C at shallow depth. The United Nations Development Program (the “UNDP”) carried out further surface exploration in the area during 1973 and a potential resource area of 6 km2 was delineated based on resistivity measurements. Based on this area, the UNDP estimated the field development potential to be on the order of 100 MW. Through the late 1970's and early 1980's further geophysical surveys and surface studies were undertaken by a number of agencies. This work indicated that a high temperature (250°C to 300°C) resource existed in the San Jacinto-Tizate area, with an apparent high resistivity zone at 1,500 to 1,600 m, which was interpreted to correspond to the bottom of the productive reservoir.

In 1992, Dal SpA reviewed all available information and performed additional geological work on behalf of Instituto Nicaraguense de Energia (“INE”). This led to the conclusion that the upflow for the field was probably located in the area of Tizate, with an outflow towards San Jacinto. In late 1992, Intergeoterm, a joint venture company owned by ENEL (77.0%) and Burgazgeoterm (23.0%), a wholly-owned subsidiary of Gazprom (a Russian gas company), began work on a feasibility study for development of the San Jacinto Project concession for power generation. This work included further surface exploration and the drilling of seven commercial diameter wells. The wells ranged in depth from 728 to 2,339 m and were completed between 1993 and 1995, although the last well, SJ-7, was suspended before it reached the proposed target depth. The drilling of these wells provided significant additional data on the sub-surface conditions, including geological information and downhole temperature and pressure profiles, and confirmed that the highest temperatures were present in the vicinity of Tizate. Five of the wells were tested, by production and/or injection, and three (SJ-4, 5 and 6) were considered to be commercial producers. Interference tests were also conducted during 1995 to provide additional information on the degree of interconnection between the various wells. 

Geological Setting

The San Jacinto-Tizate field is located in the vicinity of several young to active volcanoes that make up part of the Maribios range, a chain of volcanic mountains in northwestern Nicaragua. The volcanoes, like essentially all of the principal volcanoes of Central America, are created by the subduction of one tectonic plate (the Cocos plate) under another (the Caribbean plate) near the Pacific coast of Central America. The volcanoes of western Nicaragua differ from the majority of the other Central American volcanoes in an important respect: they occur within the Nicaraguan Depression, a major topographic and tectonic feature that extends the length of western Nicaragua and is evidenced by Lake Managua, Lake Nicaragua and other low-lying areas. The depression has been interpreted as a half-graben (a zone of structural subsidence) that is bounded on its southwest side by steeply dipping faults.

The rocks exposed at the surface in the vicinity of the San Jacinto-Tizate field consist of deposits from the volcanoes in the area (principally from the El Chorro-La Bolsa, Telica, San Jacinto, Santa Clara and Lomas de Apante complexes). Interpretation of subsurface rocks from drill cuttings in the wells at San Jacinto-Tizate indicate that subsurface rock units (to a depth of about 2,000 m, the level explored to date by drilling, are also predominantly volcanic in origin (mainly of andesitic and basaltic composition), pyroclastic rocks (tuffs and breccias of varying texture and composition), and sediments that are presumably volcanogenic in origin (that is, reworked volcanic material deposited either sub aerially or in lakes). These rock units have been interpreted to range in age from very recent to early Miocene age (that is, up to somewhere in the range of about 10 to 20 million years). The older sedimentary and volcanogenic units that are inferred from regional mapping to compose the basement beneath the volcanic deposits in the Nicaraguan Depression have not been identified in any of the wells.  

Exploration

In the past several years, work has been undertaken to increase the production and injection capacity of the field in order to accommodate the planned expansion of generation capacity for development of the Phase I and Phase II expansions of the San Jacinto Project and beyond.  This work has included a comprehensive geoelectrical survey of the concession area using magnetotelluric resistivity methods, additional integrated evaluation of the resource (including conceptual and numerical modeling of the reservoir), and beginning in 2007, the drilling of additional deep, commercial-diameter wells.

Downhole surveys and discharge tests were conducted as part of the technical due diligence study undertaken by Comisión Federal de Electricidad in 2001 and SKM for Tarma and Investment and Technical Management Limited ("ITM") in 2001. These included pressure and temperature runs in wells SJ-3, 4, 5 and 6 and discharge tests with chemical sampling on wells SJ-5 and SJ-6. The collected data were then used in conjunction with the earlier data to verify the resource characteristics.

Drilling

The Company currently estimates that initial total steam availability for the San Jacinto Project will be in the 500-530 tonnes/hour range, or 60-64 MW (net), based on current production trends and field monitoring results indicating the stabilization of the reservoir pressure following the substantial increase of production associated with the commercial operation of both the Phase I and Phase II expansions. 

To enhance steamfield production, the Company is currently executing a production enhancement plan with expected completion by the third quarter of 2013.  The 2012 Plan included, among other things, the conversion of well SJ 6-1 from an injection well to a production well and use of well SJ 12-1 as an injection well. 

2013 Remediation Plan

Once Phase II was placed in commercial operation in late December 2012, the Company began a detailed assessment of the resource.  During this period, additional geo-scientific and reservoir data collection and analysis were conducted in order to allowed the Company to make decisions regarding further production enhancement activities in order to optimize long term reservoir management and utilization.  As a result, the Company and SKM, determined that the remediation of four production wells was going to be the most cost effective alternative to drilling new production wells. 

A description of the remediation efforts follows: 

Well SJ 6-1

During August 2013, the Remediation Team successfully replaced 367 meters of damaged liner and perforated a 60 meter section of liner which had demonstrated increased temperature and permeability. 

Well SJ 6-2

During September 2013, the Remediation Team successfully perforated 60 meters of blank liner to recover production at an upper major zone that may have been affected by prior mineral deposition. 

Well SJ 9-3

 The remediation program for well SJ 9-3 began on August 25, 2013 and was completed in late February, 2014.  Well SJ 9-3 was remediated in three phases: 

•                 Initial work resulted in the Company successfully retrieving the K10 survey tool and 1,600 meters of wire line which were left in the well bore following a mechanical problem during the 2011 drilling campaign; 

•                 Secondly, the Company successfully deepened the initial leg of the well from 1,682 meters to 1,980 meters and perforating approximately 78 meters of blank liner; and 

•                 Finally, the Company successfully drilled a fork leg to a total depth of 1,900 meters during which the drilling operation experienced a total loss of circulation at 1,200 meters and 70 to 80% circulation losses for the remainder of the drilling. Such losses of circulation provide a strong indication of high permeability. 

Well SJ 9-3 continues to be in thermal recovery.  The Company made four attempts to tie in the well to the plant after nine weeks of thermal recovery.  The well has demonstrated a production output between 7-10 MW when achieving a wellhead pressure necessary for the operating pressure of the plant.  The well continues to show improved thermal recovery of temperature and pressure but will continue to be shut in for periods of time over the coming weeks to allow for full stabilization. 

Well SJ 12-3

The remediation program for well SJ 12-3 began in late October 2013 and was completed in January 2014.  The remediation plan included the perforation, deepening and forking of the well.  Well head temperature and pressures continue to oscillate since being placed into production, but will stabilize over time and the well is expected to produce between 7-10 MW.

Remediation Drilling Program

The overall remediation drilling program has a targeted increase in steam availability of approximately 9 to 14 MW, or 70-110 tonnes / hour of additional net capacity bringing total generation to approximately 59 to 63 MW (net). At that level, utilizing the current PPA, the Company's expected annualized net revenue will be approximately $56-61 million annually.

Resource Estimates

The resource potential of the eastern sector in the San Jacinto Project was initially estimated by SKM (2008, Definitive Feasibility Study) using a Monte Carlo “stored heat” approach (the “Monte Carlo Approach”), where probability distributions for some of the resource parameters were defined, resulting in a probabilistic resource estimate.

The basic principle of the stored heat method is to estimate the heat stored within a defined reservoir volume (including both the heat stored in the rock and the heat stored in the reservoir fluid) and then to estimate how much of that can reasonably be extracted and converted to useful power using typical technologies. A stored heat assessment is an educated “best guess” at the amount of accessible energy that is stored within a geothermal system and how much electricity that heat could be turned into, making various assumptions.

Using various input assumptions, the Monte Carlo Approach model was run 2,000 times to obtain frequency distribution and cumulative probability distributions. The calculated parameters indicated that the estimated capacity of the entire San Jacinto Project resource had a mean value of 277 MWe. The cumulative probability distribution showed there is a 90% probability that the resource capacity will be greater than 203 MWe and a 50% probability that it will be greater than 274 MWe. This value does not mean that there is a 50% probability that a 270 MWe development will be economic, nor even that there is a 50% probability that sufficient fluid for a 270 MWe development can be extracted for 20 years. There are numerous factors not considered in a stored heat assessment which could down-rate the available steam. There are also positive factors which can mean that a stored heat estimate can, in some cases, significantly under-estimate the long term resource capacity, most notably the fact that it does not include any allowance for heat or fluid recharge from depth. The eastern sector of the San Jacinto Project was estimated to supply 686 tonnes per hour steam capacity (89 MW) for 20 years.

A further update was provided by SKM (2012, Update of San Jacinto Reservoir Model) with the conclusion that the Eastern San Jacinto Field, prior to the completion of the medium term production enhancement plan, should support 60-64 MW (net). 

Operations

Management believes that the Company will be able to sell energy and capacity under the PENSA PPA for the San Jacinto Project which runs until June 2026 (and can be extended).  Disnorte-Dissur, the power purchaser under PENSA’s PPA holds the license to operate Nicaragua’s electrical distribution system. The Nicaraguan Government holds a 16% ownership interest in the Offtaker. The balance of shares in Disnorte-Dissur is owned by TMI, a Spanish consortium formed by TSK and MELFASOUR, both Spanish companies, who purchased controlling interest in the Offtaker from Gas Natural Fenosa.

There is minimal dispatch or price risk to the Company under PENSA’s PPA. Full dispatch of the San Jacinto Project plant is assured by regulation and by merit order. PENSA’s PPA price of $107.50/MWh is lower than current average Nicaraguan wholesale market price of $170 /MWh and regional long-run marginal costs. The Company believes that the resource is competitive not just in Nicaragua, but throughout Central America, which is expected to become a regional market of greater than 10,000 MW by late 2012.  In 2010, Nicaragua’s energy regulator, INE, approved a price cap for renewable energy projects that sell energy in the spot market between a range of $86-95 /MWh.  The Company’s current and future PPA prices are not limited by the spot market price cap for renewable energy projects. 

The Company has continued to verify and sell its Certified Emission Reductions (“CERs”) under the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (“UNFCCC”) Clean Development Mechanism.  CERs generated by the project were certified via a UNFCCC Project Development Document (“PDD”) in the first six months of 2009, verified by TÜV SÜD Industrie Service GmbH in 2011, and sold in early 2012. 

Asociación Española de Normalización y Certificación (“AENOR”), the Company’s new Designated Operational Entity, is reviewing a PDD for the new plant design that will be submitted to the UNFCCC to re-certify the project and enable the Company to verify and sell CERs that were generated after June 2009. Concurrently, AENOR is verifying the monitoring report from July 2009 to December 2010 to enable the sale of CERs generated during that period.  Pending approval of the new PDD, Management expects to generate CERs at a rate of between 0.7102 and 0.754 (tCO2 or CER)/MWh.  Market prices for CERs under UNFCCC’s program have fallen and were trading between €.32-.38 per CER during early 2013.  Management is exploring alternatives to sell future CERs.    

Exploration and Development

Pursuant to the terms of the San Jacinto Exploitation Agreement, the San Jacinto Project was developed in two phases, Phase I and Phase II. Both Phases I and II of the San Jacinto Project are concentrated in the eastern sector of the San Jacinto Project concession. Phase I originally called for the development of 20 MW (net) of production in two stages, with each stage comprised of 10 MW (net).  Phase II called for the production of an additional 46 MW (net). Pursuant to Addendum # 5 to the San Jacinto Exploitation Agreement, Phase I was expanded to 46 MW (net) and Phase II is planned to be expanded to 36 MW of capacity, bringing the total planned capacity of the backpressure units, Phase I and Phase II to 82 MW (gross).

The San Jacinto Exploitation Agreement previously provided that the deadline for the commercial operation date (“COD”) of Phase I was April 26, 2011. On April 29, 2011, MEM agreed to further extend the COD deadline of Phase I to October 28, 2011.  Effective October 2011, MEM agreed to further extend the COD deadline of Phase I to December 31, 2011 and the Company formalized the extension with MEM and Disnorte-Dissur in January 2012.  The deadline for COD of Phase II was extended to December 31, 2012 and the Company formalized the extension with MEM in January 2012.  

A description of Phase I and Phase II development follows:

  • Phase I Development

The selected technology for Phase I of the San Jacinto Project development was back-pressure steam turbines for initial development. These are relatively inefficient units, but were able to be installed very quickly and at a low cost. They represent a level of technology which has been successfully applied to geothermal developments worldwide, and especially in Latin America.

  • Phase I:  Back Pressure Development

As the first stage of the project development of Phase I, 2 x 5 MW (net) existing backpressure steam turbo generators and associated equipment were purchased from LaGeo and placed into commercial operation in 2005. This equipment was originally supplied by ACEC of Belgium (now part of Alstom) and was installed in LaGeo’s geothermal power plant at Berlin, Departamento de Usulután, República de El Salvador. Backpressure turbine power plants are comparatively simple and economical to install. Using readily available equipment provided advantages for the San Jacinto Project budget and implementation schedule.

  • Phase I:  Single Flash Condensing Turbine Development

Single flash technology, which is the most commonly used technology for geothermal projects worldwide, provides for the most efficient extraction of energy from the steam supply. Fuji has been building steam turbines for geothermal applications since 1977 and currently has 57 machines operating worldwide. Fuji has the necessary expertise in geothermal turbine design to meet the performance and reliability required by the San Jacinto Project.
The San Jacinto Project Phase I power plant and steamfield was originally to be constructed via procurement and construct contract with Constructora Queiroz Galvao S.A. (“CQG”) of Brazil.  Due to contractual issues between PENSA and CQG, PENSA took over the construction management of the project in March 2011. 
The San Jacinto Project Phase I power plant was mechanically completed in October of 2011.  Subsequent to mechanical completion, commissioning activities for the expansion commenced which included the coordinated turnover of all plant subsystems between the Phase I expansion sub-contractor Dymel and the commissioning staff, including Fuji Electric Corp. of America (“Fuji”), the manufacturer of the turbine and generator.  In December 2011, the Phase I expansion was successfully synchronized to the Nicaraguan national integrated electrical grid, and the plant was declared in commercial operation on January 9, 2012. 

  • Phase II: Single Flash Condensing Turbine Development

The completion of the San Jacinto Phase II power plant brings the total San Jacinto Project capacity to 72 MW (net).  Concurrent with the Phase I expansion, the Company engaged TIC as the Phase II contractor and gave FNTP in August of 2011.  The Phase II expansion sub-contractor Prinel and the commissioning staff, including Fuji, completed the commissioning activities for the Phase II expansion in early to mid-December 2012. On December 19, 2012, the Phase II expansion was successfully synchronized to the Nicaraguan national integrated electrical grid, and the plant was declared in commercial operation on December 29, 2012. 

The Phase II project is located on the existing prepared platform adjacent to Phase I.  The 138 kV switchyard was expanded during Phase I construction to allow for a further transformer bay for the new unit.  In the fourth quarter of 2011, the Company transferred all of its rights, title and interests in the transmission and substation assets for the San Jacinto Project to Empresa Nacional de Transmisión Eléctrica (“ENATREL”), the owner and operator of the national transmission system in Nicaragua, in accordance with applicable Nicaraguan law and the terms of the Phase I and Phase II Credit Facilities.  ENATREL assumed sole responsibility for the operation and maintenance of the transmission assets and the interconnection of the plant to the Nicaraguan national transmission system.

Phase III: Binary Unit

In March 2012, the Company executed a mandate letter with IFC for the financing of a binary unit bottoming cycle power generation plant (the “Binary Unit”) at the San Jacinto Project site.  The Binary Unit is expected to add approximately 10 MW (net) of additional capacity to the 72 MW (net) expansion of the San Jacinto Project.  Binary Unit construction is planned to begin construction after the available brine flow from the Phase I and Phase II expansions is confirmed.  Because the Binary Unit will use the geothermal fluids separated from the geothermal steam used to power the San Jacinto Phase I and II units as its source of heat for power generation, no additional production or injection wells are required to construct and operate the Binary Unit at its full capacity.