An Irish Civil Engineering professional's perspective from Brazil

Archive for the ‘Rio de Janeiro’ Category

Wind Power in Brazil: great potential, even better opportunities!

Brazil held its first wind-only energy auction in 2009, in a move to diversify its energy portfolio… and foreign companies scrambled to take part.

Some background

Soon after the millennium, a drought in Brazil that cut water to the country’s hydroelectric dams prompted severe energy shortages.

The crisis, which ravaged the country’s economy and led to electricity rationing, underscored Brazil’s pressing need to diversify away from water power.

The bidding is expected to lead to the construction of two gigawatts of wind production with an investment of about US$ 6 billion over the next two years.

Brazil counts on hydroelectricity for more than 3/4 of its electricity, but authorities are pushing biomass and wind as primary alternatives.

Wind energy’s greatest potential in Brazil is during the dry season, so it is considered as a good bet against low rainfall and the geographical spread of existing hydro resources.

Brazil’s technical potential for wind energy is 143 gigawatts due to the country’s blustery 4,600-mile coastline, where most projects are based.

The Brazilian Wind Energy Association and the government have set a goal of achieving 10 gigawatts of wind energy capacity by 2020 from the current 605 megawatts, with another 450 megawatts under construction.

The industry hopes the auction will help kick-start the wind-energy sector, which already accounts for 70% of the total in all of Latin America.

Plenty of Windfarms, mainly in the North East of the country... however many more are planned in the rest of Brazil.

Wind power in Brazil amounts to an installed capacity of 602 MW at the end of 2009, enough to power a city about 300,000 residences.

The 36 windparks and windfarms in the country, in 2009, were located in Northeastern Brazil (5 States), Southern Brazil (3 States), and Southeastern Brazil (1 State).

Potential of wind in Brazil is more intense from June to December, coinciding with the months of lower rainfall intensity.

This puts wind as a potential supplementary source of energy generated by hydroelectricity.

As of 2009, 10 projects were under construction, with a capacity of 256 MW. In 2010, 45 started construction to generate 2,139 MW, in several States around Brazil.

The U.S. company General Electric has one plant in Brazil, in the city of Campinas, and one partnership with Tecsis in Sorocaba, meeting the demand of the new projects.

While the 2009 United Nations Climate Change Conference (COP15) was taking place in Copenhagen, Brazil’s National Electric Energy Agency (ANEEL) held the country’s first ever wind-only energy auction.

On December 14 2009, around 1,800 megawatts (MW) were contracted with energy from 71 wind power plants scheduled to be delivered beginning from July 1, 2012.

While focusing domestically on wind-energy generation, Brazil is part of a larger international movement toward wind power as a primary source of energy.

In fact, wind power has seen the highest expansion rate of all available renewable energy sources, with an average growth of 27% per year since 1990, according to the Global Wind Energy Council (GWEC).

Government support for renewable energy

Brazil’s first wind-energy turbine was installed in Fernando de Noronha Archipelago in 1992.

Ten years later the government created the Program for Incentive of Alternative Electric Energy Sources (PROINFA) to encourage the use of other renewable sources, such as wind power, biomass, and Small Hydroelectric Power Stations (PCHs).

Such stations use hydropower, the flagship of Brazil’s energy matrix, which comprises around three-quarters of Brazil’s installed energy capacity.

High energy production costs, coupled with the advantages of wind power as a renewable, widely available energy source, have led several countries to establish regulatory incentives and direct financial investments to stimulate wind power generation.

Growth of wind energy in Brazil

Since the inception of PROINFA, Brazil’s wind energy production has escalated from 22 MW in 2003 to 602 MW in 2009, as part of 36 private projects. Another 10 projects are under construction, with a capacity of 256.4 MW, and 45 additional projects have been approved be ANEEL with an estimated potential of 2,139.7 MW.  Developing these wind power sources in Brazil is helping the country to meet its strategic objectives of enhancing energy security, reducing greenhouse gas emissions and creating jobs. The potential for this type of power generation in Brazil could reach up to 145,000 MW, according to the 2001 Brazilian Wind Power Potential Report by the Electric Energy Research Center (CEPEL).

Average Annual Wind Velocity - Brazil.

As you can see comparing these wind velocities and the previous map of current and planned projects… there are many areas of high potential (yellows and reds) which do not yet have windfarms installed or even planned past a concept stage.


The cost of energy production continues to pose a significant challenge to the growth of wind energy. The price per megawatt hour (MWh) established in Brazil’s auction of wind power reserve supply is R$189, while the cap defined in bidding for power plants of the Madeira River Hydroelectricity Complex was R$91 (UHE Jirau) in 2008, and R$122 (UHE Santo Antonio) in 2007. These hydroelectricity prices were marked down by up to 35% in the 2008 and 2007 auctions; the energy supply was negotiated at R$71.4/MWh in the case of Jirau, and R$78.9/MWh for the Santo Antonio plant.

Canoa Quebrada Windturbines

A passing bus near Canoa Quebrada, Brazil, demonstrates the size of modern wind turbines.

To conclude… there is no conclusion.

Wind in Brazil is an ongoing subject, and I believe that Wind should be developed in as a priority source of energy. Even more so than Brazil’s hydro-electric system, and as is currently being debated in Congress in Brazil how it may have negative consequences on indigenous reserves by means of extensive flooding. This I will discuss at length in another article.

Let’s see if Brazil will not forget about Wind Energy now that Petrobras has made such lucrative finds of Oil and Gas offshore of Rio.

I am hopeful.

However if we wish to play a part in Brazil’s future… then we need to be in it, to win it!

Brazil’s leap into better energy supply

New power plant, to be in place and operational before 2014

Nicknamed “The Marvelous City,” Rio de Janeiro is the gateway to Brazil. And soon over 7-million spectators will arrive for the highly anticipated 2014 World Cup and 2016 Summer Olympics. The world will watch as Rio becomes the first city to host the Olympic games in South America and only the second to ever host both events back to back. There is however growing concern that the Olympic torch will be the only thing illuminating the night sky. That’s because Rio has repeatedly fallen victim to some of the worst power failures in history. So the Brazilian government has launched an ambitious plan to remove the entire city from the nation’s aging power grid and transform Rio into a self-sufficient ‘power island.’ The plan includes re-linking over 160 km of power lines, building the largest nuclear generator in the country, and the lynchpin: the Simplício Hydroelectric Complex.

This is one the of largest construction sites in the world, spanning an incredible 24 km. Crews are racing to divert over 780-billion gallons of water from the Paraiba do Sul River through some of the world’s widest tunnels. Once operational, this hydroelectric facility will help to generate nearly 30% more power for Rio. But with January storms threatening to dump over a foot of rain on their progress, crews must prepare for the messy and dangerous road ahead.

The project is a joint venture between Odebrecht Energy (leader) and Andrade Gutierrez. The project, contracted by Eletrobras (Furnas Centrais Elétricas S.A.), encompasses the towns of Três Rios and Sapucaia (Rio de Janeiro), Além Paraíba and Chiador (Minas Gerais) and includes a concrete dam in Anta, and two energy houses separated by a hydraulic circuit formed by channels, dikes and tunnels. When finished the Complex will have a production capacity of 333.7 MW.

The decision to re-route the river (as opposed to creating a reservoir, by flooding upstream) was in the interest of minimizing the project’s social and environmental impact on the region.

According to Fernando Chein, Contract Director, the construction of the Anta dam with Rolled Compacted Concrete is a major advantage:

“The system presents advantages such as speed in finishing the project and in the reduction, by half, in the use of cement by cubic meter of concrete”.

Seven of the Widest Tunnels in the World
Countless waterfalls and rapids make the Paraiba do Sul one of the wildest rivers in Brazil. To accommodate its torrent, each of the 7 diversion tunnels on the Simplício Hydroelectric Project must measure over 50 m in circumference. But there isn’t a Tunnel Boring Machine (TBM) on the planet that large. So workers must rely on a far more dangerous method of tunneling — heavy-duty jumbo drills and dynamite.


Tunnel no.3 (6km long)

One of the Biggest Construction Sites in the World
The Simplício Hydroelectric Complex spans over 24 km, making it one of the biggest construction sites on Earth. Not only is this project larger than Manhattan Island, it’s also equipped with a city-like infrastructure complete with 5 medical centers, 4 data/voice towers, 6 cafeterias, 3 concrete plants, and a fleet of 70 cars and buses.

Everything in this project is on a grand scale

One of the Largest Earth-Moving Projects in the World
If a dam is constructed directly on the Paraiba do Sul River the reservoir it creates will flood the nearby town of Sapucaia. Rather than displace 130,000 people, engineers are diverting the river for a stretch of 24 km through 7 different mountains and 13 man-made channels. To pull off a job of this size workers must use over 600 different earth-moving vehicles. The contractors are utilising a an innovative construction method for the Civil works called hydroseeding, in order to stabilise the slopes.

Some of the Civil Engineering works in the Simplício complex

Longest Power Transmission Link Ever Built
Approximately 90% of Brazil’s power comes from hydroelectricity. And because most of the country’s water is located in the Amazon rainforest, an extensive power grid is needed to connect remote hydroelectric outposts with major coastal cities like Rio de Janeiro. The latest addition to this grid will extend an unprecedented 2,400 km, making it the longest power transmission link in the world.

3 Giant Turbines
The Francis turbine is the most widely used hydro turbine on the planet. Here at Simplício, 3 of them will be in use, each capable of generating 102 megawatts of power. But the real benefit to the Francis turbine is adaptability. The erratic flow of the Paraiba do Sul creates a major obstacle for this project because drastic changes in water pressure at a hydroelectric plant either hamper energy production or completely destroy the turbines. The Francis turbine however has a revolutionary design that accommodates heads ranging anywhere from 9 m to upwards of 30 m.

Most Powerful Hydroelectric Plant in the World
The Itaipu Dam is Brazil’s greatest source of energy and home to one of the biggest hydroelectric complexes in the world. It is located in the south of Brazil, near the Foz do Iguaçu waterfalls on the border with Argentina and Paraguay. In 2008 the plant generated a record 94.68-billion kilowatt-hours. That’s over 10-billion kilowatt-hours more than Three Gorges Dam! Here, maintenance is paramount since Itaipu supplies 20% of the energy consumed by Brazil and 90% of that consumed by Paraguay.

Itaipu dam (low flow)

The tide arrives, for Naval Engineering in Brazil

Some news which may be of interest to those of my readership who are involved in Maritime design. The naval industry (Ship Design, Naval Construction, Naval or Marine Engineering and Naval Architecture, etc) is currently very lucrative in Brazil. As is the whole area of petrochemical extraction and it’s related sub-industries.

Ever since the initial discovery of the oil resources off the coast off the continent, there has been immense anticipation of just how large exactly they were.  Of course, preliminary estimates were tentative. Then the more detailed studies began to sound fantastically optimistic. Such large numbers were suggested by experts, that many saw this as an opportunity for Brazil to leapfrog itself into a prime position in global oil production.

However, now that Petrobras (among others) has started to invest in the infrastructure for its future prospects, it certainly seems to be turning into reality.

Image via Wikipedia

The first 100% Brazilian oil platform...

For example; Petrobras is currently constructing 15 mobile oil processing ships for its current projects. This does not include what Petrobras will construct for its future prospects in the recently discovered oilfields in the Atlantic ocean to the east of Brazil. Such as in the Santos Basin, the Campos Basin (namely Peregrino), the Espirito-Santo Basin, the Jejuitinhonha & Camamu-Almada… all of which are off the coast of Rio de Janeiro.

Graphic representation of a processing vessel's role

So to put this into context, each one of these 15 ships is valued at $1.3 billion dollars!

Typical example of an extraction vessel for crude oil

Through my recent conversations with senior members of this industry, I have become aware of the growth in this sector. To the extent that being a senior designer in this area, can mean you are at will to name your price ( meaning a more than substantial income), such is the current demand for these skills.

So, if you are thinking of expanding your horizons, and would like to be part of a developing resource… then Brazil is the place for you to go.

Recent offshore Oil and Gas developments in Brazil

Recently, there have been a few tell-tale signs that the Oil & Gas industry in Brazil, is not far from realising its potential.


Hermod completes Peregrino heavy lift.

Statoil has completed a heavy lift of two wellhead platforms on the Peregrino field offshore Brazil using the vessel Hermod. The development is the group’s largest offshore project outside the Norwegian continental shelf.

Hook-up and completion are under way. The company plans to begin 30 horizontal production and seven water injection wells later this year.

The field’s FPSO is scheduled to arrive for hook up and commissioning in the coming months. Maersk is constructing the vessel at the Keppel Shipyard in Singapore. The FPSO’s mooring systems are in place following an installation program by the offshore construction vessel Boa Deep earlier this year.

Peregrino is 85 km (53 mi) off the coast of Brazil in a water depth of up to 100 m (328 ft). First oil is anticipated in 2011 and will continue up to 2040, Statoil says.

Sevan Driller arrives in Brazil.

The Sevan Driller arrived in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil on Saturday, March 27, says Sevan Marine. The ultra deepwater drilling unit will undergo custom clearance and acceptance testing by Petrobras before beginning operations under a six-year contract.

Petrobras downgrades project portfolio for 2011-2014.

Petrobras has decreased its project portfolio investment for 2011-2014 from $148 billion to $139 billion.

The company’s board has approved $257 billion worth of projects for after 2014. According to the company, the investments aim to increase oil and natural gas production, taking advantage of success in the post- and pre-salt, and exploratory activities.

The E&P project portfolio includes construction of production platforms and drilling rigs, support vessels, and investments in transportation infrastructure.

Brazil plans High-Speed Rail

As I previously mentioned on this blog, there are plans for a high-speed (circa 350kph) rail service to be in place for the upcoming World events in Brazil (2014 & 2016). Stretching for just over 500km, it will link the cities of São Paulo and Rio de Janeiro, including stops at their respective international airports. Construction costs are estimated in the area of $19 billion (circa €14 billion, or circa R$34 billion).


There is no national rail network in Brazil today, however there was a limited rail route around some major port cities a century ago. This network is now used to a certain amount for freight transport. Now to start a modern rail network is no small feat, without even having a widespread existing (if outdated) national network. Especially considering that Brazil is such a huge country (fifth largest in the world), and has a population of circa 192 million people (also fifth largest in world).

I have to say, I admire the aspirations that Brazil is pursuing. This is an example of how Brazil is affirming itself on the international stage, through it’s forward-looking investment and a determined positive attitude. In my opinion, many countries could learn much from the approach Brazil demonstrates in this respect.

The proposed high-speed train line will be operating in a corridor which contains the most populous areas in the whole country. It is estimated that circa 18.75% of the Brazilian population reside in this future rail corridor. This area of Brazil also accounts for generating a third of the country’s gross domestic product (GDP).

The latest industry rumours suggest that it may not reach completion before Brazil hosts the 2014 FIFA World Cup. More than likely it will now only be operational by the 2016 Rio Olympics.

Tag Cloud

%d bloggers like this: