The New Today

Commentary

Grenada Geothermal Development Project: ESIA exploratory test drilling

The development of geothermal energy is one of the actions proposed by the Government of Grenada as a climate change mitigation measure to address one of the principal sources of its emissions, the generation of electricity.

According to the project description in the 2024 Estimates, this ongoing capital project “seeks to develop a 15MW geothermal power plant which will be able to support 42% of the demand for power in Grenada. The project will be implemented in five (5) phases: (1) Surface Exploration and Preliminary Conceptualization, (ii) Exploration Drilling, (iii) Appraisal Drilling and Bankability, (iv) Production Drilling and Construction (v) Commissioning and Operation.

The Estimates 2024 proposed that this year, Grenada will undertake Exploratory Drilling to be funded by a grant from the Caribbean Development Bank.

This article will summarise the Non Technical Summary Report which was circulated as the principal background document for the national stakeholder consultation of November 9th, 2023.

Draft ESIA Report: Volume I Non Technical Summary 1

Alternatives Considered
According to Volume I, all key stages of the Project have looked at alternative options including the “no project” option to seek to reach the most environmentally and socially beneficial project re generation of renewable energy.

A “no project” option would be a barrier to the achievement of Grenada’s renewable energy transition and would prolong the country’s dependence on fossil fuels.

Exploratory Drilling

  • The Exploratory Drilling is intended to confirm the existence of, and to characterise the geothermal source and assess its viability for power generation. It is intended to confirm the temperature which is an indication of productivity.

If the initial drilling, Exploratory Drilling is successful, the next phase of the process would be full size appraisal drilling, which would aim to expand understanding about the geothermal reservoir size, chemistry well productivity, and also understand how the system would behave under production. This would require another ESIA.

Grenada requires international funding and national approvals to facilitate the exploratory drilling. Therefore the Government of Grenada needs to complete an ESIA in accordance with international standards2.

Project Sites
Provision of reliable water supply is a key factor in determining the location of a suitable geothermal energy. Exploratory Drilling will be undertaken at the following sites:- • Site C (Tricolar), St. Patrick’s. located to the north-east of Mount St Catherine; • Site F (Florida/Plaisance), St. John’s, situated to the southwest of Mount St Catherine;

Both sites are located in areas of significant water resources and reliable water supply.

Project impacts
Based on the information provided in Volume I, the following impacts have been noted.

Impact on Livelihoods

  • Economic Resettlement: The most significant impact on the people in the project areas will be related to economic resettlement.
  • Women Farmers: In the area around the well pads, most of the farmers are women, and many of them lease the land they use from landowners.

Landslides and Soil Erosion

  • Risk of Increased Erosion and Landslides: Both well pad locations, Site C and Site F, have Belmont clay loam soil, where water is the main force causing erosion. When the land is cleared of vegetation, especially on steep slopes with heavy rainfall, there is a risk of increased erosion and landslides.
  • Impact: The project could potentially lead to more soil erosion, and this could have negative effects on rivers, biodiversity, and the local community

Water Resources

  • Impact on Water Resources: Effects on water resources are not expected to be significant. Water for well drilling and testing will be taken from local streams in a managed way, to ensure that water supplies, aquatic ecology and amenity use of the streams are not adversely affected.
  • Water Quality: Water quality in the permanent watercourses is good and the flow rates vary seasonally. The rivers are used locally for a variety of purposes including irrigation, bathing and fishing, as well as public water supply.
  • Groundwater Quality: Groundwater quality is also good and there are several springs in the area that help to maintain river flows during the dry season (January to June), and which are used for public and commercial water supply (at Site F and Site C respectively)
  • Risk of Flash Flooding: Periods of intense rainfall are not uncommon and can result in flash flooding of the narrow valleys in the project area.

Site C, Tricolar

  • Ground Water Quality: At Site C, the risk to groundwater is slightly higher, because of nearby springs that supply water used for commercial purposes.

Information Unavailable in the Draft ESIA Report: A study is therefore underway to investigate the potential effects of the project on groundwater quality and spring flow, and the results will be available later in 2023, alongside the final ESIA report.

  • Flooding: The Site C pumping station would be located in an area that is already at risk of flooding.
  • Increased Risk to Local Properties: If flooding occurs there during any stage of the project, the presence of the pumping station within the floodplain could increase the risk that local properties would be flooded.
  • Relocation of Pumping Station/Local Flood Protection: The Site C pumping station will be relocated in the final design to minimise its effect on floodwater; and if necessary, local flood protection measures will be put in place to protect vulnerable properties.

Waste Management

  • Waste Management: The waste generated by the project will be properly managed and, therefore, it will stay within the project site boundaries.
  • Contamination of Groundwater: However, if any contaminants or materials dug up from the ground need special disposal off-site or are not handled correctly, there is a chance they could contaminate the groundwater or aquatic environment outside the project area.
  • Waste minimization: To minimize waste, the project will reduce, sort, reuse, and recycle as much as possible. The Project will also be careful with food waste, keeping it separate and enclosed to prevent pests and bad smells, and either compost it or dispose of it quickly.

Impact on Natural Environment and Resources

  • Protected Areas: The project areas are outside the boundaries of the protected areas, Mt. St. Catherine National Park and Forest Reserve and Grand Etang National Park and Forest Reserve.
  • Impact on Natural Habitat and Species: These diverse, natural habitats in the areas surrounding the project sites, contribute to the ecological richness of the study area, providing a variety of ecosystems and species diversity.
  • Biodiversity: The primary impact on biodiversity features is expected to be the disturbance and displacement of highly sensitive terrestrial fauna during the construction and operation phases, which will be relatively short-term (three to six months).
  • Mitigation Measures: To mitigate impacts on natural habitats and species, the project will implement construction and operations ecological management plans (CEMP and OEMP), aimed at achieving no net loss of biodiversity. Therefore, the exploratory phase of the project is not likely to have significant residual impacts on natural habitats or species.
  • Critical Habitat Assessment (CHA): Before any site disturbance, a CHA will be conducted. If the project is found to be within an area of Critical Habitat, the management and monitoring of critical habitat feature removal and restoration will be carried out through the OEMP during the drilling and testing phase.

General Conclusions
Volume I – Non Technical Summary – offered the following conclusions:-

  • Negative Impacts/Mitigation: “When conducting exploratory drilling for geothermal energy, there will always be some level of negative effects on people and the environment. Although negative impacts have been identified for this project, these can be controlled and mitigated with management plans and through the implementation of good international industry practices, as detailed in the ESMP.
  • Project Green Light: The Project is deemed able to be developed in accordance with national requirements and the applicable international standards.

To be continued

Sandra Ferguson