Empresas Publicas de Medellin (EPM) has closed one of the two floodgates at the 2.4-GW Ituango hydro project, which previously had been opened and was allowing water to flow into the turbine rooms.
According to BNamericas, Medellin Mayor Frederica Gutierrez Zulaga, who is also chairman of the board of project owner EPM, said this was the first milestone related to closure of the turbine rooms. The turbine rooms were purposefully flooded last May to prevent the dam from bursting its banks. Gutierrez says this will allow engineers to assess damage to key machinery and equipment.
The second floodgate for the turbine rooms will only be shut on the recommendation of experts, Gutierrez said. “After 24 hours, technicians will begin a new evaluation to determine a timely, prudent and necessary time for the closure of gate number one,” he said.
Meanwhile, geological tests on the area where a sinkhole was discovered less than two weeks ago showed the area is stable after the closure of the first floodgate. The void was located between two tunnels used to evacuate water from the reservoir into the Cauca River, during drilling to check the ground’s stability before the floodgates were closed.
Ituango is Colombia’s largest infrastructure project in investment terms and has presented some serious challenges during construction. When complete, the facility is to supply more than 17% of the country’s electricity. But given the circumstances, its operational startup has been postponed by at least three years, to December 2021 in a best case scenario.
EPM has been working to remain solvent during this crisis, and HydroWorld reported in late November that the company had secured a US$314 million credit line from Bancolombia to help stabilize cash flow.