As you travel east from the Pueblo Viejo mine towards the province of San Pedro de Macoris, the land begins to flatten out. The misty mountains, their peaks merging with the clouds, give way to level terrain occupied by endless fields of sugar cane. Sugar cane is a staple of San Pedro de Macoris, which is located in the southeast region of the Dominican Republic, but the province is better known today as a breeding ground of preternaturally gifted baseball players. George Bell, Tony Fernandez, and Sammy Sosa are just a few of the dozens of big leaguers who grew up here.
In recent years, however, San Pedro de Macoris has begun to produce another important product: electricity. The province is home to the massive Quisqueya energy complex, which began operating in late 2013. The 118-acre facility is comprised of twin state-of-the-art power plants: Quisqueya 1 and Quisqueya 2. Each can generate up to 222 megawatts of electricity. Barrick Pueblo Viejo owns Quisqueya 1 and EGE Haina, a local power provider, owns Quisqueya 2. Each company made major capital investments; Barrick Pueblo Viejo alone invested $326 million in the power plant and other infrastructure to bring this project online.
Electricity from Quisqueya 1 is used primarily to power the Pueblo Viejo mine, with surplus electricity to be channeled directly to the country’s national power grid in the near future. EGE Haina directs all power from Quisqueya 2 to the national power grid.
Before it began sourcing power from the Quisqueya 1 plant, Pueblo Viejo paid as much as 23 cents per kilowatt hour (kWh) to purchase electricity. Today its electricity costs are just 7 cents per kWh.
“It’s made a huge difference,” says Victor Gomez, Energy Dispatch and Transmission Line Supervisor.
The Quisqueya plants each contain 12 diesel-powered engines and one steam turbine. Each engine weighs 360 metric tons, about 793,000 pounds, and produces up to 17 megawatts of electricity. Residual heat from the engines’ exhaust is used to power the steam turbines, which each produce an additional 18 megawatts. Because they do not run on heavy fuel oil, the steam turbines generate significant savings. Between 2014 and 2016, for instance, the turbine saved Quisqueya 1 approximately $16 million in fuel costs.
“It’s like having an engine for free,” says James Bills, Power Plant Superintendent.
Bills is the only Barrick Pueblo Viejo employee who works at the Quisqueya Energy Complex, which is operated and maintained by EGE Haina. He works closely with EGE Haina staff to ensure Quisqueya 1 runs smoothly and safely. In total, 110 people work at Quisqueya 1. Many of these employees are shared between the two plants, and nearly all are Dominican nationals.
“The only ex-pat in this place is me,” Bills says.
The bulk of the electricity produced at Quisqueya 1 travels via a 230,000-volt transmission line to the Pueblo Viejo mine. The 87-mile line includes 400 galvanized steel towers and is equipped with fiber optic cables to facilitate communications between the plant, the mine and various substations.
Currently, Quisqueya 1 is operating at 60 percent capacity, but that will increase when the plant begins selling surplus capacity to the national power grid operator, Sistema Eléctrico Nacional Interconectado, or SENI. Barrick Pueblo Viejo is pursuing a transmission connection to a local substation in San Pedro de Macoris that will provide a temporary outlet for Quisqueya 1’s surplus power, allowing it to operate at full capacity.
Longer-term, and as part of its commitments to the Dominican government, Pueblo Viejo is partially funding the construction of a new substation near the mine called Banao III. The new substation is expected to be complete in the second half of 2018. It will add 68 megawatts of new electricity to the national power grid, which will help alleviate the shortage of power in the country. The sale of this surplus electricity to SENI is expected to generate substantial additional revenue for Quisqueya 1, which will help offset the cost of energy to the mine.
EGE Haina’s Eddy Gomez, Plant Manager at Quisqueya, says the success of the complex underscores the close collaboration between Barrick and EGE Haina.
“There was a lot of cooperation,” he says.