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IWPs Eyeing Chile Desalination Sector

31 October 2013
Research Note

On 3 October 2013, Chile-based AES Gener announced plans to issue debt to support increased investment in its core power business activities and an expansion into water desalination. AES Gener, an IPP, 71% owned by US-based AES Corporation with a presence in Chile, Argentina, and Colombia, is the largest thermal generator and second largest electricity generator in Chile, operating 21% of the country’s total generating capacity with 2,858 MW thermal and 271 MW hydro power.

Earlier in the year, on 26 July 2013, BHP Billiton and Rio Tinto announced a US$3 billion investment for the construction of a 216,000 m3/d desalination plant to serve the Escondida, Chile copper mine expansion. The Escondida mine will be the first to have 100% of its water needs met through desalination. Construction is expected to begin in 2013 and conclude in 2017. Doosan has been contracted to construct the plant and Degrémont provided Escondida’s first desalination system (45,360 m3/d) that went online in 2012. Both the desalination plant and mine are owned and operated by BHP Billiton (57.4%), Rio Tinto (30%), and JECO Corporation (10%). Escondida, located southeast of Antofagasta at 3,100 meters above sea level, is the largest copper mine in Chile.

Takeaways

  • Large plants and high demand spark IWP, AES Gener activity
  • Northern Chile copper expansions necessitate added desalination capacity
  • High delivery costs and unreliable power supply highlight infrastructure constraints on water


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