Argentina ripe for new energy investment says Brisbane backer of US $2 billion coal mine-power station

A Brisbane company hoping to drive the development of a major coal mine and associated power station in Argentina, says the country’s current energy grid warrants substantial new investment in energy options.

Addressing the opening day today of the sixth Paydirt Latin America Downunder conference in Perth, energy advisor to ASX-listed Dark Horse Resources, Mr Boyd White, said a significant priority facing Argentina was to secure sufficient power supply while achieving a lowering in the cost of the nation’s electricity bill.

“Argentina currently has an expensive, insufficient power generation base,” Mr White said.

“This is driving the country’s promotion of private sector participation in new domestic energy investment,” he said.

“To put this in perspective, some US$35 billion in new investment in generation is needed to install an additional 21 gigawatt of new capacity by 2025.”

This will be boosted in the near-term with tenders due over the next three months for the supply of a further 3,000 megawatts of thermal power.

Dark Horse is looking to dually develop the 100 million tonne plus Pico Quemado thermal and metallurgical coal resource and an associated ultra-supercritical 600MW-1200MW mine mouth coal fired power station in Argentina’s Rio Negro province.

More than 250,000MW of super critical generation is currently under construction worldwide.

“This is not new technology but it is the latest, high efficiency coal generation technology with lower greenhouse gas emissions,” Mr White said.

Dark Horse says the plant will be a base load electricity supplier, feeding into an existing 500KV transmission network.

Initial cost estimates put a price tag on the project of US$2 billion with development financing to be sought from international consortia.

Mr White said mine planning and modelling would commence mid year with further drilling to resume later in 2017.

“The project brings substantial advantages to Argentina’s energy sector including more affordable, reliable and sustainable power, greater grid stability, the commercialisation of a large coal resource and the replacement of older, less efficient generation,” Mr White said.

“While the project concept is strongly supported by the Rio Negro Government, nonetheless it will require a commitment of funds, high quality financing partners, and a high level of confidence that the national government will support the undertaking.”

The Pico Quemado coal is high in energy, with moderate ash and low sulphur, making it ideal for generating base load electricity.

Argentina has ~29,000MW of installed capacity, 1,500MW of which is considered peak power and 3,500MW of which is more than 30 years old and nearing the end of its life.

Demand is reaching 24,000MW in peak periods with limited to no spare capacity. This in turn has caused brown outs across the country.

Ultra‐Supercritical (USC) technology requires less coal per megawatt‐hour (lower carbon dioxide and sulphur emissions) and reduced fuel consumption, reducing overall operational expenses.