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 Aliambata Gas Seep Electricity Generation

Long delays for small-scale alternative energy project

21 April 2009

[links embedded in the text below lead to specific documents related to the Aliambata project.]

At Aliambata, near the south coast in Viqueque district, natural gas seeps out of the ground and has been burning for as long as anyone can remember. For more than five years, authorities here have discussed using the energy from this gas to power a small electric generating plant which could provide a few hundred kilowatts to nearby communities. Click here for a 2004 ADB summary of the possible project.

The project has been plagued with problems and delays from the beginning. In 2005, the Government asked the World Bank to develop it with funds remaining in the Trust Fund for East Timor (TFET) (see 2005 page on Bank website), and some activities have started. In 2006, for example, Resettlement and Environmental Management Plans were drafted.

The total combined sources funding approved for this project is nearly two million U.S. dollars.

The 2008 donor registry includes $850,000 from TFET to the Ministry of Infrastructure "To assist the Government of Timor-Leste in determining the technical and economic viability of harvesting seep gas from natural gas seeps to produce reliable and affordable power for isolated rural communities." The aid money supports Aliambata as a pilot project, to start in May 2007 and finish by the end of 2009. During 2008, $49,000 was budgeted from this assistance project, but only $26,000 was spent.

The 2008 original and rectified state budgets allocated $400,000 of  for 2008 and $579,000 for 2009 from government funds. None of the $400,000 was spent in 2008, and it was re-appropriated in the 2009 budget. In addition, the $579,000 previously planned for 2009 expenditures was increased to $746,000. This Government funding is on top of the TFET money.

The Ministries of Finance and Infrastructure have tried three times to find a company to build the power distribution system for this project. In September 2008, the Ministry of Finance circulated an Invitation to Bid for the project, but it was later withdrawn. A new tender process was begun on 25 February 2009, with a deadline of 31 March. On 17 April, the Ministry of Finance cancelled the bid round had been  "Due to the bid proposal submitted was not conformity with Ministry of Finance Procurement procedures. Therefore, we are sorry to announce the cancellation of the above mentioned tender. We regret the inconvenience the cancellation may cause to our esteemed Bidders."

On 17 April 2009, the Ministry circulated a slightly different version inviting "sealed proposal from invited Company for Design, Supply and Installation of Aliambata Power Distribution System", with a deadline of 8 May 2009.  [Click here for the original 10MB document on the MoF website -- La'o Hamutuk shrank the file and copied it to our website for permanence and ease of downloading.] A site visit is scheduled for 22-23 April, and a pre-bid meeting on the 24th.

The Technical Specifications and Scope of Work for the Distribution Project include the following:

Timor-Leste has a number of natural gas seeps where gas, likely to be of biogenic origin, is emitted at the surface at a sufficient rate to support combustion. The government of Timor-Leste intends to harness this resource to support electrical generation for rural communities without electricity or for those where the cost of diesel fuel is a constraint on delivery of electricity.

A pilot development, the Gas Seep Harvesting Project (GSHP), is planned near the Aliambata kampong, in the Uatolari Sub-District of the Viqueque District on the southern coast of Timor-Leste. The proposed power plant will consist of one gas-fuelled engine-generator set and two dual-fuelled (gas-diesel) engine-generator sets, each rated at about 150 KVA. The project will also provide a permanent seep gas collection facility together with a piping system, a gas flare and gas regulation that will supply the gas to the power plant.

The outgoing electrical cables from the proposed power plant will connect to a proposed new 20 kV electrical distribution system servicing several local communities and interconnection to the 20 kV distribution systems of Uatolari and Uatocarabau. The proposed development will extend to supply and installation of transformers and the 220 V domestic and commercial connections.

Pre-paid electrical meters for all connections are to be a part of the development, but the supply and installation of these meters will be the responsibility of others.

Description of Works

The scope of work for this project comprises the design, supply, fabrication, installation, testing and commissioning of a new 20 kV distribution line that will extend from a proposed power plant located close to the kampong of Aliambata, on the main road between Borolalo to the west and Vessuro to north-east, and from Borolalo to Babulo to the north. The distribution line will interconnect the existing distribution lines that service the Uatolari and Uatocarabau communities, both of which have diesel-fuelled generating plants.

The number of domestic connections in the Uatolari and Uatocarabau communities is believed to be around 1,000. The proposed contract for electrical distribution is to allow for the interconnection of 3,000 domestic and commercial consumers.

Civil works will involve survey of the route, identification of pole sites, site and vegetation clearance, excavations etc. The Contractor will be responsible for obtaining all necessary geotechnical information for the design of pole foundations etc.

The Contractor shall assume responsibility for the installation work at site, including the co-ordination of work with all vendors and other sub-contracting agencies operating at the Aliambata site. The Contractor will liaise with the Engineer to ensure that all works are executed to the total satisfaction of the clients and Timor-Leste statutory agencies.


The Timor-Leste Institute for Development Monitoring and Analysis (Lao Hamutuk)
Institutu Timor-Leste ba Analiza no Monitor ba Dezenvolvimentu
Rua dos Martires da Patria, Bebora, Dili, Timor-Leste
P.O. Box 340, Dili, Timor-Leste
Tel: +670-3321040 or +670-77234330
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