The St Vincent and the Grenadaines' geothermal project (Photo: Nature Best)

St Vincent hints at scrapping energy project

The St Vincent and the Grenadaines' geothermal project (Photo: Nature Best)

The St Vincent and the Grenadines government has hinted at the possibility of scrapping the geothermal energy project that it had hoped would have produced electricity to allow the island to even export to Barbados.

Prime Minister Dr Ralph Gonsalves

Prime Minister Dr Ralph Gonsalves said that the wells dug on the slopes of the La Soufriere volcano have produced the heat but not the permeability needed for electricity generation at the required level.

“There has to be a testing to see how many megawatts you are going to get. Clearly, given a lack of sufficiency of the permeability, you are not going to get the predicted geothermal output, so the question would be at a much lower output whether it makes sense to go through with the project,” Gonsalves said.

He said the government is awaiting the testing equipment.

“We are finished the drilling. The problem as I outlined to Parliament, the real problem we have, is that question for the permeability of the rocks is a real problem.

“The presence of the geothermal source, undoubtedly there, the heat, quite in order, over 250 degrees Celsius, so it’s a good geothermal resource, except for the important issue of the permeability because it has to come through — the geothermal resource has to come through the rocks coming up and you don’t have that extent of permeability,” Gonsalves said, adding that there is another form of technology that is being considered.

“There is a Canadian firm which is involved and the technical people are pursuing that but there is a question of the testing to see the extent of what we can get. But, clearly, [it] is not going to be what was envisaged before. But as I said, there is another form of technology to help to get around the permeability issue.”

Gonsalves said that this technology would require particular resources leaving open the possibility of funding from the Inter-American Development Bank (IDB) or the Caribbean Development Bank (CDB).

He said that St Vincent and the Grenadines has only spent about EC$600,000 (One EC dollar=US$0.37 cents) of its own resources on project management, which is, thus far, the country’s contribution to the project.

“So I want to make that plain because all the rest monies were either grant monies or contingent grants and from different sources where those who were granting the money knew that the resource was there but because we couldn’t ourselves borrow money to do the drilling, we had the grants for the drilling and once that drilling was successful we would then be involved with grants to ensure the production and everything. So that’s where we are,” he added.