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Saturday, 18-November-2006
SANA'A- - Yemen has agreed to begin studying how geothermal energy could be used to power the country. Representatives from the Ministry of Water & Environment and the Ministry of Oil and Minerals met this week with the German Federal Institute for Geosciences and Natural Resources, and signed an agreement to launch a project exploring the use of geothermal energy.

Under the agreement, the German side would fund the geothermic project in Yemen with €300,000. The contribution of GBR, along with contributions from the Yemeni government and other donors, at a total of some two million dollars, will be allocated for exploratory digging down to 2,000 meters beneath the surface in Dhamar - Rada’a. Geothermal energy is a form of renewable energy derived from heat deep in the earth’s crust. This heat is brought to the near-surface by thermal conduction and by intrusion into the earth’s crust of molten magma originating from deep within the planet.

As groundwater is heated, geothermal energy is produced in the form of hot water and steam. The heated groundwater can be used for the direct heating of homes and greenhouses, for vegetable drying, and for a number of other uses. The purpose of the agreement is to conduct exploratory surveys to determine the potential for producing electricity from latent heat beneath Yemen’s soil, Minister of Water and Environment Abdul Rahman al-Eryani said. After exploration is done, the results will be presented to investors and to the Ministry of Electricity for the establishment of thermopower stations, he said.

The German institute is going to carry out a joint project with the Ministry of Water and the Geological Survey and Mineral Resources Board to promote the use of geothermal energy, because Yemen has high geothermal potential, said Katrin Kessels of the German Federal Institute. This was first recognized in studies conducted in the early 1980s, Kessels said. But because Yemen at that time had enough power, the parliament rejected the project, said Eng. Nori Jamal, a coordinator for the project.

“But now, Yemen needs power as key element for development and investment,” he said Now, the project will make further investigations, to give investors a chance to invest in this kind of renewable energy, Kessels said. Yemen has many pockets of hot sub-surface waters, Khalid al-Banna, Manager of Geological Survey al-Banna said. The previous studies discovered 85 thermal places across the country. Geothermal energy has major environmental benefits, because it offsets air pollution that would have been produced if fossil fuels were the energy source, he said.

The Ministry of Water and Environment contacted the German institute to get financial help to carry out this project, Dr. Hussein al-Gunied, and deputy minister for environmental affairs said. Work on the project will start next December. Yemen announced at the beginning of this year that it wants to study the use of the atomic energy to generate electricity. “We have to utilize all forms of renewable energy,” Dr. al-Gunied said. “We will use the German support to make exploratory studies to find out if it is possible to generate electricity from the first well, which will be in the Dhamar region,” said Jamal.

“In Dhamar, the cost of drilling the well will be between $1 million and $1.5 million, he said. If the exploration is fruitful, Yemen will enter a new era of using renewable energy, and it will invite investment in this field, he said. Any source of energy is welcome in Yemen, said Dr. Mohammed Matash, scientific advisor at the oil ministry. “But this is the best friend of the environment.” A Yemeni team is heading to Ethiopia to attend an initial conference on this kind of energy.
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