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5 June 2020

The Guri Hydroelectric Power Plant Project, Venezuela

The Guri hydroelectric power plant, also known as Simón Bolívar hydroelectric power station and Raul Leoni Hydroelectric Central, is situated 100km upstream of the Caroni River in Necuima Canyon in Orinoco, Venezuela.
The Guri dam is situated 100km upstream of the Caroni River in Necuima Canyon in Orinoco, Venezuela. Credit: Davidusb / Wiki Commons.
The Guri hydroelectric power plant has an installed capacity of 10,200MW. Credit: Warairarepano & Guaicaipuro / Wiki Commons.
The Guri hydroelectric power plant is one of the biggest power plants in the world. Credit: Warairarepano & Guaicaipuro / Wiki Commons.

The Guri hydroelectric power plant, also known as Simón Bolívar hydroelectric power station and Raul Leoni Hydroelectric Central, is situated 100km upstream of the Caroni River in Necuima Canyon in Orinoco, Venezuela.

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The power plant has an installed capacity of 10,200MW and is one of the biggest power plants in the world. The plant provides approximately 50,000GW/h of energy to the country annually.

The Guri dam measures 532ft in height and 4,314ft in length. The plant contains three high-voltage switchyards, running at 800kV, 400kV and 230kV. The switchyards are arranged in a breaker-and-half configuration.

Venezuelan power company CVG Electrification del Caroni CA (Edelca) operates and maintains the power plant.

Guri hydroelectric power plant construction

The construction of the power plant was carried out after the government adopted a policy in the 1960s to reduce the amount of energy produced from fossil fuels.

“The Guri hydroelectric power plant provides approximately 50,000GW/h of energy to Venezuela annually.”

The feasibility studies for constructing the power plant started in 1961. Harza Engineering Co International carried out both technical and economic studies. In 1963, a consortium, consisting of Kaiser Engineering and Constructors, Macco International, Tecon International, Merritt Chapman & Scott Overseas, Christian Nielsen and Technical Building Construction, was awarded the contract for the construction of the plant.

Towards the end of 1963, the initial construction work, earthworks and routes of the access roads commenced. In 1964, the Caroni River was diverted to the right side of the bank to enable the construction of the plant. The civil works of the first stage of the power plant were completed in 1976, consisting of powerhouse I with ten generators and a capacity of 2,065MW.

The final stage of the construction for the power plant started in 1978. In 1982, four main construction works were taken up, which included the concrete dam (Guri Dam) and powerhouse II, the excavation of the second channel and discharge operation plant of aggregates, earth and rockfill dams left and right.

In 1984, the first unit of powerhouse II was commissioned with ten 630MW generators. The completed Guri power plant was inaugurated in 1986.

MWH Global provided design services of the concrete gravity dam, while Atkinson Construction served as the civil contractor. A total of 8,280,000 cubic yards of concrete was placed for the development.

HPC Venezuela (VHPC), an affiliate unit of Hitachi Plant Technologies, was awarded the contract for the construction of powerhouse II.

The construction work carried out by VHPC included the installation of ten water turbines with a capacity of 730MW and ten auxiliary transformers. In addition, VHPC installed a water treatment system, six elevators and a complete carbon dioxide fire-fighting system.

Guri hydroelectric power plant modernisation

Edelca carried out a modernisation programme to extend the plant’s life by 30 years. As part of the modernisation programme, Andritz Hydro was awarded a €100m contract in 2007. The contract involved the supply of five 770MW Francis turbines for powerhouse II of the power plant. Andritz also received a follow-up order to supply and install excitation equipment for the powerhouse II in 2009. The company supplied the first of the Francis turbines, weighing 200t, to the Guri power plant in the third quarter of 2009.

In May 2009, Alstom Hydro received a second contract worth €31m from Edelca to refurbish five 630MW generators of powerhouse II of the power plant. The first contract worth €80m was awarded in 2007 for the refurbishment of four 400MW Francis turbines and generators of powerhouse I of the power plant.

Hydroelectric power plant technology

Under the modernisation programme of the power plant, a consortium consisting of ABB Venezuela, ABB Canada and ABB Switzerland was awarded a contract to conceive and install the unit control, protection and instrumentation systems for the power plant.

ABB chose to install an industrial video and control (IVC) system and integrated it with a leak detection system to monitor the Guri dam. The IVC system helps to identify a range of alarm protocols and responds to alarms by starting user-defined responses such as camera functions.

Venezuela power market

Approximately 73% of the country’s energy requirements are met by the Guri power plant. In January 2010, it became evident that Venezuela had become over-dependent on the power plant to fulfil its energy requirements.

Water levels in the Guri dam fell drastically in 2010, leading to a severe power crisis in the country.

Water levels fell again in 2016, causing a major electrical blackout in the country. Again in 2019, Venezuela witnessed electrical blackout due to the failure of the San Gerónimo B substation, which is connected to the Guri dam.

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