Brod Ronald O. Vicedo
Lead Geologist, Chevron Geothermal Philippines
Few people outside of the energy industry are aware that the Philippines is a major player in geothermal power development worldwide. Next to the US, the Philippines is second in terms of total installed plant capacity out of twenty four (24) countries utilizing geothermal energy for electric power generation. Not surprising since the Philippines is on the western boundary of the Pacific Ring of Fire, a continuous chain of volcanic centers surrounding the Pacific Ocean. It is this favorable location which has endowed the Philippines with a high potential for geothermal energy. Electric power generation from geothermal energy presently accounts for about 18% of the country’s power requirement.
The country currently hosts seven (7) major operating geothermal fields spread across the country from Luzon to Mindanao with a total capacity of 1970 megawatts (MW). Two of these fields were developed by Chevron Geothermal Philippines Holdings, Inc. (formerly Philippine Geothermal Inc., then Unocal Philippines, Inc.) and the rest by Energy Development Corp., now part of the Lopez Group of Companies (formerly Philippine National Oil Company-Energy Development Corp.).
Tongonan 1 Geothermal Power Plant, Leyte, Philippines
Chevron Geothermal Philippines operates the steam fields of Tiwi in Albay and Mak-Ban in Laguna/Batangas on behalf of the national government. Steam is supplied to power plants owned and operated by the National Power Corp. Combined, the power plant capacities of the Tiwi and Mak-Ban complexes constitute about 38% of the Philippines’ total geothermal capability. The majority 62% is supplied by EDC’s geothermal fields in Tongonan (Leyte), Bacon-Manito (Sorsogon/ Albay), Palinpinon (Negros Oriental), Mount Apo (North Cotabato/ Davao), and Northern Negros (Negros Occidental).
The birth of the Philippines’ geothermal industry is often always attributed to the 1970s oil crisis but in fact, investigation of the country’s potential for utilizing geothermal energy for electric power generation began in the early 1960s. The defunct Commission on Volcanology or ComVol, (the precursor of the current Philippine Institute of Volcanology and Seismology or PHIVOLCS) began investigating the Tiwi hot springs and boiling pools in Albay in 1964. It was headed by the late Dr. Arturo P. Alcaraz, the acknowledged father of Philippine geothermal development. In 1967, a pilot plant with a capacity of 2.5 kWe in Barangay Cale, Tiwi, Albay was turned on to power the first light bulbs utilizing electricity from geothermal.
Given the limited local experience for large scale geothermal resource development at the time and with a looming energy crisis, Unocal Corp., an oil and gas company that developed and was then operator of the largest dry steamfield in the world at the Geysers in California, was invited to help explore and fast track the development of the Tiwi field starting in 1971 and later on Mak-Ban in 1974. Commercial production at both fields began in 1979. At about the same time, New Zealand expertise on geothermal energy development was tapped under a government-to-government agreement to support efforts of the newly organized PNOC-EDC to evaluate other geothermal prospects. That partnership led to the development of the Tongonan geothermal field in Leyte in 1983. Through additional work in the mid 1990’s Tongonan, has now grown to become the largest water-dominated geothermal field in the world. Other fields came online in the following years since 1983 up until 2006 when the Northern Negros geothermal field started commercial operations.
Recently, the Department of Energy has granted permits to new private companies to explore and develop other geothermal areas in Kalinga province (Batong Buhay), Batangas (Mabini) and Compostella Valley (Amacan/ Nabunturan). These areas are part of a list of around 21 locations with significant geothermal potential that DOE is offering prospective private developers.
Iuvenis Orbis has quietly contributed to the geothermal story of the Philippines through the work of a handful of brods who have been part of the industry in one way or another across the different phases of geothermal energy development from exploration, development and resource management stages.
Brods who have been involved in geothermal at some point in their careers are Eric Pagado, Andy Santos, Rene Medrano, Ronald Vicedo, Tony Dimabuyu and most recently, Raymond Leuterio. (Any brods who I may have missed, please sound off.)