First Geothermal Station for Papua New Guinea

Gold company Lihir Gold Limited is turning its vast geothermal resource into an opportunity. In April, the company started commissioning a 6 MW geothermal power station, the first in Papua New Guinea to use natural geothermal energy for the generation of electricity.

Lihir, Papua New Guinea – June 4, 2003 [] Based on Lihir Island in New Ireland, all of Lihir Gold’s gold reserve is, to some degree, in geothermal zones. The company has successfully managed Lihir’s geothermal resource so that mining is feasible in areas once considered too hot and, now, following extensive studies, it is using geothermal steam for power generation. Four steam wells, initially drilled for the purpose of cooling and de-pressuring the mine, will provide the steam required for the power station. The Lihir power plant requires over 100 tons of steam per hour to operate at maximum capacity. The 6MW produced represents about 10 percent of the gold operation’s total power requirements. Equipment for the power station was sourced worldwide, with the turbines manufactured by General Electric in the USA and the steam gathering systems designed and constructed by Century Resources in New Zealand. Local contractors have been closely involved throughout construction. In order to gain experience in operating this type of equipment, four power plant personnel from Lihir Gold travelled to New Zealand in early February to gain first hand experience in the operating of steam gathering plant, valves and control systems. Lihir Gold Managing Director, Neil Swan, says the development of a geothermal power station will bring benefits not only for the company but also for Lihirians, Papua New Guinea as a whole and the environment. “It is a win-win situation all round,” Swan said. “The company has harnessed a low-cost, renewable power supply. Local businesses have been employed in the construction of the power station. Papua New Guinea has gained new technology that will have benefits for future generations. And we will be using less fossil fuels, reducing the impact on the environment.”
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