KOTA KINABALU: The University of Aukland and Tawau Green Energy Sdn Bhd (TGE) have inked a memorandum of Understanding (MoU) on the development of Malaysia's first geothermal energy industry in Tawau. During the signing ceremony which was held in Aukland, New Zealand recently, Managing Director of TGE, Ramzi Raad and Dr Andy Shenk of the University of Aukland agreed to facilitate the provision of the university's expertise in geothermal training and research. The University of Aukland is one of the leaders for applied research and training in geothermal energy.
The MoU was for the two parties to forge collaboration for the Geothermal Resource Centre (GRC) being set up by TGE in Tawau as part of its development project and supported by the Federal and Sabah Government. The signing ceremony was witnessed by Energy, Green Technology and Water Minister Datuk Seri Panglime Dr Maximus Ongkili. The collaboration will enable the Geothermal Resource Centre to develop capacity building for the Malaysian geothermal energy industry. It will also provide specialist training in all aspects of geothermal energy including applied geosciences, steamfield design, power plant technology, power plant engineering and design, operations and maintenance, environmental compliance etc and also to provide a platform for local universities and institutions of higher learning to collaborate with foriegn institutions with expertise in all aspects of geothermal energy.
The centre will also run seminars, short courses and other training programmes for Malaysian engineers and scientists keen to involve themselves in this new field of renewable energy. It also encourages local and foreign universities to collaborate in joint-research activities on the Apas Kiri Geothermal field. TGE is developing Malaysia's first geothermal power plant at Apas Kiri, Tawau, which will deliver 30MW of electricity to Sabah State Grid in May 2016. Drilling operations are expected to commence at the end of April 2014. Ongkili hoped that with the setting up of the GRC, Malaysia's human capital and expertise in the geothermal energy field would be strengthened.
"This is especially so as we want to promote use of renewable energy and reduce our dependency on fossil fuel. Currently renewable energy accounts for 0.85% of our country's energy mix and we hope to increase that to 5.5% in the nearest future," he said. TGE is also expected to enter similar arrangements with other universities in the near future. Ongkili, who led a delegation on an official trip to New Zealand, also visited the Wairakei combined flash and binary geothermal power plant, and the Ngatamariki binary geothermal power plant, both located near Taupo, with their respective geothermal fields being part of the Taupo Volcanic Zone (TVZ).
The minister and his delegation were briefed by Contact Energy and Mighty River Power, the operators of the respective power plants, on the design, operation and maintenance, and environmental compliance of the power plants. Geothermal power plants currently contribute about 15% of New Zealand's total energy needs. Using latest technology, the power plants optimise power plant and operating staff effeciencies. The 82MW Ngatamariki plant needs only one operator per shift for its operations. The delegation also visited ODINN, the drilling rig contracted to undertake the drilling operations for the project. It is owned and operated by the Iceland Drilling Company (IDC) and is a 1300hp hydraulic rig which has had a successful track record both in Iceland and New Zealand.
The rig will soon be disassembled, packed and shipped to Tawau. IDC will provide a turnkey package for the drilling operations, including rig and accessories, drilling crew, materials and consumables.