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Medellín Metro News 128

Published in Medellín Metro News Written by September 14 2018 0

The Antioquia departmental government (Gobernacion de Antioquia) and the Area Metropolitana del Valle de Aburra (AMVA, the association of Medellin regional governments) announced September 13 that financing has been secured for a major debottlenecking project of the “Regional Norte” highway between Medellin, Bello and Copacabana.

The current highway suffers huge traffic jams at the intersection of the main Bello highway with the roundabout connecting the “Regional Norte” highway and the Niquia metro station. Extending the congested "Regional Norte" highway north of Medellin alongside the eastern bank of Rio Medellin has been frustrated for some 50 years, proponents noted.

According to the AMVA-Gobernacion joint press release, COP$179 billion (US$59 million) has just been approved for “phases 2, 3 and 4” of the “Avenida Regional Oriental Norte” project.

This scheme partly involves building elevated highways on the eastern side of the Rio Medellin, opposite the existing Regional Norte highway on the western bank.

The project will be undertaken by the existing "Hatovial" highway concessionaire in three new phases, according to the government agencies:

• Phase 2, Northern Oriental Regional Route (Bello): This involves extending the Regional Norte highway on the eastern side of Rio Medellin between Universidad Minuto de Dios (at the Acevedo interchange) and the La Seca interchange (Fontidueño sector) in the municipality of Bello.

The project includes construction of a 3.6-kilometers-long highway with three vehicular lanes and a bicycle corridor, including a 350-meters-long bridge system connecting to the La Seca interchange.
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• Phase 3, La Seca Interchange: The La Seca Interchange on the western side of the Rio Medellín river will connect to the eastern side of the river in the vicinity of EPM’s new "North" wastewater-treatment plant in Bello.

This project will include two vehicular lanes of 1.9 kilometers in length, including 0.8 kilometers of bridges -- along with sub-surface intersections -- enabling future expansion of the Metro rail system northward of Niquia and including the highway route to Fontidueño.

“The La Seca Interchange will allow the circulation of some of the 30,000 vehicles that travel daily through the Bello-Hatillo highway and the main route for those heading to the north of the department of Antioquia and the Colombian Caribbean coast,” according to the agencies.

• Phase 4, Copacabana: This project includes a vehicular and bicycling corridor 600-meters long, from 50th street to 48th street, bordering the Piedras Blancas stream and the west bank of Rio Medellín, passing through the Quebrada Las Catas and finally connecting with the main entrance bridge to Copacabana’s central park, according to the agencies.

Published in Medellín Metro News Written by September 03 2018 0

Medellin-based multinational electric-power giant EPM on September 9 revealed in a presentation to the Medellin City Council key financial assumptions about its proposed sale of assets and other measures to cover losses arising from the Hidroituango hydroelectric project diversion-tunnel collapse.

“Among other issues, we highlight that in the case of the Hidroituango hydroelectric project, we assume that the equipment currently in the mechanical room could have suffered some damage [resulting from diversion of Cauca River water through that room], although to date we lack exact information on possible damage,” according to EPM.

To recoup losses, EPM proposes to raise about COP$7 trillion (US$2.27 billion) from asset sales, internal cost reductions and postponement of some capital projects over the next three years.

Among key assumptions to this financial-recuperation plan:

1. Hidroituango would produce its first 300 megawatts (MW) of power in December 2021, with the remaining 2.1-gigawatts of the total 2.4-gigawatts of capacity entering into service at some yet-to-be-determined dates.

2. EPM possibly would net COP$1.2 trillion (US$389 million) in insurance payoffs for infrastructure damage plus another possible COP$1.3 trillion (US$422 million) for loss-of-power sales that had been expected between 2018 and 2021 – all resulting from the diversion-tunnel collapse and subsequent postponement of power sales.

3. Total Hidroituango project costs are now estimated at COP$14 trillion (US$4.5 billion), of which COP$2.5 trillion (US$811 million) corresponds to financial costs.

4. Costs to compensate populations affected by the temporary emergency (following the diversion-tunnel collapse and subsequent measures to relocate threatened downstream populations) are estimated at COP$600 billion (US$195 million), including costs likely to be incurred in 2018, 2019, 2020 and 2021.

5. Costs for installing transmission power lines are estimated at COP$120 billion (US$39 million).

6. Equipment down-time costs are estimated at COP$338 billion (US$109 million) in 2019.

7. Colombian national power prices are seen declining from 2021 to 2026, after Hidroituango comes back on-line.

8. Thermal power generators in Colombia are assumed to burn imported liquefied natural gas (LNG) rather than fuel-oil or domestic gas during the three-year delay in power output from Hidroituango.

9. EPM investments in drinking-water infrastructure in Colombia would continue as normal from 2015 to 2025, with current tariff structures unchanged until 2026.

10. Another 370,000 water customers would be added to EPM’s Colombia network through 2025.

11. The “Emvarias” trash-collection transfer station near Medellin would begin operations in 2021.

12. EPM would sell its Chilean water and power utilities and its 10% stake in Colombian power transmission giant ISA during 2019.

13. EPM wouldn’t lose access to financial markets to cover its debt needs.

14. EPM’s gross income would dip to COP$16.5 trillion (US$5.3 billion) in 2019, down from the COP$18.2 trillion (US$5.9 billion) initially foreseen (prior to the diversion-tunnel collapse and subsequent delay in power sales from Hidroituango). Through 2030, that initial loss of power sales (which would have started in December 2018) continues to penalize total expected revenues each year, hitting COP$27.8 trillion (US$9 billion) in 2030 – down from an expected COP$31.9 trillion (US$10 billion) in 2030, the difference explained by the tunnel-collapse financial impacts.

15. Earnings before interest, taxes, depreciation and amortization (EBITDA) also take hits in most years from 2019 through 2030, although EBITDA should spike to around COP$8.8 trillion (US$2.8 billion) in 2021, EPM estimates.

16. EPM’s annual payments to the city of Medellin (its 100% shareholder) from power sales will fall in 2019, 2020 and 2021 -- compared to 2018 -- but payments then rebound and rise from 2022 onward, hitting COP$2.1 trillion (US$681 million) in 2030.

Asset-Sales Details

In an earlier, September 3 press conference, EPM general manager Jorge Londoño de la Cuesta revealed that the Medellin City Council could decide whether to approve the sale of EPM's 10% stake in power transmitter ISA and Chilean utility assets by early October.

“The sooner the better,” Londoño added, as a quick sale would overcome current market anxieties about EPM’s financial position as a result of losing an estimated COP$6 trillion (US$1.97 billion) to COP$7 trillion (US$2.3 billion) from the Hidroituango hydroelectric-dam project problems.

“We’re confident and optimistic that [the Council] will approve this in the next few weeks,” he added.

Most of the estimated revenue losses from Hidroituango problems come from an estimated three-year delay in electric power sales (COP$4 billion/US$1.3 billion), Londoño said.

The remaining losses include an estimated COP$1.5 trillion (US$492 million) to COP$2 trillion (US$656 million) in related dam-infrastructure repair costs, plus an estimated COP$500 billion (US$164 million) to COP$1 trillion (US$328 million) for compensating temporarily affected populations around the hydroelectric dam.

EPM’s proposed sale of its 10% stake in electric power transmitter ISA is likely to net about COP$1.5 trillion (US$492 million) while the sale of its Chilean water and power utilities likely will generate more than COP$2 trillion (US$656 million), he estimated.

Hence it’s possible that the entire COP$4 billion (US$1.3 billion) in lost electricity sales can be recouped by just those two asset sales, without affecting any core EPM businesses, he estimated.

In addition, EPM aims to delay about COP$2 trillion (US$656 million) of the total COP$14 trillion (US$4.6 billion) in planned infrastructure investments over the next few years. Those delays won’t significantly hurt EPM’s future power, water and sewer services, nor have any impact on current EPM customers. What’s more, these postponements won’t impede achievement of regulatory service standards, he emphasized.

In addition, to generate more savings, EPM expects to trim about COP$500 billion (US$164 million) to COP$1 trillion (US$328 million) in internal costs including cutbacks in various sponsorships and short-term contract labor over the next three years, he said.

As a result, the roughly COP$4 trillion (US$1.3 billion) gained from asset sales, plus the COP$2 trillion (US$656 million) n infrastructure investment delays, plus the up-to-COP$1 trillion (US$328 million) in internal-cost cutbacks would deliver about COP$7 trillion (US$2.3 billion ) in additional revenues – enough to cover all the expected Hidroituango losses and simultaneously ensure that the City of Medellin continues to receive its hefty annual share of EPM profits, he said.

EPM’s payments to the city (EPM’s 100% owner) currently run at about COP$4 trillion (US$1.3 billion), or about 25% of Medellin’s total annual city budget.

While EPM’s full-year 2018 earnings before interest, taxes, depreciation and amortization (EBITDA) won’t be hurt by Hidroituango costs this year, future EBITDA likely would be trimmed somewhat, although Londoño didn’t offer any estimate of the total impact.

As for when EPM will shutter the tunnel that currently diverts Cauca River water through the machine room (necessitated by the diversion-tunnel collapse last April), this decision depends on relative rainfall over the next months. Higher rainfall around the Cauca River basin means greater Cauca River flow, while lower relative rainfall cuts river flow, he explained.

EPM aims to reduce the time it takes between shuttering the machine-room tunnel -- with a consequent rise of water-level behind the dam – and the subsequent, eventual flow of water over the engineered spillway at the top of the dam. Cutting this time-gap to a minimum number of days will mean less impact on downstream populations that depend upon some constant minimal water flow of the river, he added.

Published in Medellín Metro News Written by August 26 2018 0

Colombia’s Controller-General on August 25 unveiled a 442-page report finding that recent problems with the US$5 billion, 2.4-gigawatt “Hidroituango” hydroelectric project in Antioquia are the result of insufficient technical studies, planning and regulatory controls.

The Controller’s report is especially critical of Colombia’s environmental licensing agency (Agencia Nacional de Licencias Ambientales, ANLA) for issuing permits supposedly without sufficiently rigorous technical, environmental, animal and population-risk studies.

However, ANLA immediately issued a public response claiming that the Controller’s report contains “inexact” conclusions that “don’t correspond to reality.”

In part, the response points-out that ANLA wasn’t the entity that initially approved licenses for the project, but rather the Environment Ministry.

What’s more, it’s odd that the Controller didn’t raise objections to the various initial licenses and ANLA license-revisions issued in 2009, 2010, 2011, 2012, 2013, 2014, 2015, 2016 and 2017, but only after the diversion-tunnel collapse in late April 2018, ANLA points out.

In addition, ANLA emphasized that it didn’t hide anything from the Controller in ANLA’s subsequent license-revision approvals, the reponse contends.

In any case, Hidroituango project manager EPM recently hired an independent auditor that will investigate the real causes of the diversion-tunnel collapse. That auditor’s report is due by year-end 2018, ANLA added.

What’s more, EPM has undertaken every subsequent ANLA-mandated measure to remediate, fix and shore-up the project since the tunnel-collapse incident, as well as take extraordinary measures to protect and compensate affected downstream populations and wildlife, the agency adds.

Controller Report Highlights

“There are many weaknesses and errors discovered by the Controller in the different stages of the licensing process, such as the approval of the license by the then-Ministry of Environment, without sufficient studies and designs, detailed and updated, which allowed the location of the megaproject in an area with high geological risk,” according to the Controller’s report.

According to the Controller’s report, the Hidroituango project “is located in an area crossed by more than 11 recognized geological faults,” while some 26,000 people living in the area of the hydroelectric dam potentially could suffer disastrous consequences from any dam failure.

An “alternative environmental study” potentially could have led EPM to reconsider whether the chosen Hidroituango site “was the best option from the environmental and social point of view,” according to the report.

“Due to the absence of certain studies and real designs, 12 modifications to the environmental license had to be generated throughout the execution of the project, which also did not have sufficient and detailed studies and designs, and ANLA -- without sufficient bases in some cases -- has granted them,” according to the report.

“In the development of the civil works of the project, there were decisions by the licensee and the environmental authority which were not supported in a technical manner, which generated flaws in the project, such as the final closure of the two main [Cauce River water] diversion tunnels, without having built the floodgates included in the design; and in their replacement the construction of a single [evacuation] tunnel with half the capacity of the two closed tunnels, also located on geological faults,” according to the Controller's report.

What’s more, since EPM’s recently contracted study investigating the cause of the tunnel collapse still hasn’t been completed, it remains possible that some future collapse could occur in the rock massif adjacent to the dam, with potentially catastrophic consequences, according to the Controller.

“The risk can be increased by the arrival of the rainy season in October, when [rainfall] reaches the maximum peak,” according to the report.

“Given the technical uncertainty surrounding the project in terms of its future, the most certain and real thing is that due to its location, the features of the Cauca River, the deficiencies in studies and designs, the [uncertain] civil works developed, the inhabitants that have been affected and the damages caused to natural resources (flora and fauna), the horizon of the project can be considered as uncertain and the systemic risk is permanent,” according to the Controller.

“Due to the [tunnel-collapse] contingency that occurred in April and May of 2018, the current post-emergency conditions and the internal stability of the massif are not the same as those with which the environmental license was [initially] granted.

“As the excavations of the [construction] work and the actions generated by the loss of hydraulic control of the dam possibly weakened the massif, generating structural changes, [these factors] must be evaluated to continue the project.

“Especially the [water volume behind the dam, adjacent to the rock massif] drastically affects the seismicity, induced by the increase of the load due to the weight of the water, the increase of pore pressure in the geological faults and the lubrication of the contact surfaces," according to the report.

The uncertain integrity and stability of the right bank massif, where all the main works of the hydroelectric] plant are located, plus the impact of the temporary diversion of Cauca River water through mechanical room, both raise the possibility that “this massif should never have been saturated and under pressure,” the report concludes.

EPM Statement

On August 27, EPM released the following statement in reaction to the Controller’s report:

“In relation to the findings of the audit report on the compliance of the environmental authorities in the licensing process for the Ituango hydroelectric project, prepared by the Controller-General of the Republic, EPM informs the following:

"1. From the beginning of the [Hidroituango tunnel-collapse] contingency, EPM has expressed its interest in clarifying all doubts that may be held about the work. Therefore, as is our duty and will, we have provided the authorities and the control agencies with the information required to carry out the revisions on the management and execution of the project.

"2. The construction and development process of the Hidroituango hydroelectric project has always been accompanied by the competent [regulatory] authorities.

"3. Several aspects related to the findings announced by the Controller-General’s Office have been in the process of investigation for several weeks by the Corporate Audit and Disciplinary Control [office] of EPM.  EPM respects due process, for which reason it refrains from elaborating upon the facts of the investigations that are in progress. Once the results of the inquiry are known, our conclusions will be divulged in a timely manner."

Published in Medellín Metro News Written by August 04 2018 0

Medellin-based utilities giant EPM announced July 3 that it signed a biodiversity project alliance deal with University of Antioquia (U-A) to study and protect birds and other wildlife affected by EPM’s hydroelectric dams – including the under-construction “Hidroituango” dam in Antioquia.

According to EPM, the agreement with U-A “adds scientific, technical and administrative efforts for the integral management of biodiversity, through research and conservation actions in the areas of interest of power generation in Antioquia.

“With this alliance, initially planned to continue until 2020, five programs of integrated management of biodiversity in the zones of influence of different reservoirs in Antioquia are developed. The five research and training programs include terrestrial flora and fauna; ictiofauna, habitat and ecosystems; cyanobacteria monitoring and management of melanoides tuberculata; public health surveillance; and environmental education."

According to EPM, the new alliance with U-A is a continuation of earlier joint research projects with EPM, “based on the information needs related to monitoring the environmental impacts of the Porce II and Porce III hydroelectric projects and the efficiency of the management measures implemented.”

One just-completed project investigated the impact of the Hidroituango dam (and habitats flooded by the lake behind it) on various locally endangered or threatened birds, including Military Macaw (Ara militaris), Channel-Billed Toucan (Ramphastos citreolaemus) and Antioquia Wren (Thryophilus sernai), according to EPM.

Commenting on the U-A deal, EPM general manager Jorge Londoño de la Cuesta added: “In recent years we have witnessed a positive evolution of social and environmental performance standards for our energy generation operations, leveraged by an increase in the level of technical requirements of environmental regulatory authorities at the national and regional levels.

“Now we highlight a management scheme with the University of Antioquia, as it means that compliance with environmental obligations associated with our operations is being evaluated and followed by an entity with academic and scientific rigor.”

Published in Medellín Metro News Written by August 01 2018 0

Private-sector developers are stepping-up their push for the proposed “doble calzado oriente” (DCO) four-lane, divided highway between the Sancho Paisa roundabout on the Las Palmas highway (east of Medellin) and the international-airport highway adjacent to Hospital San Vicente Fundacion.

In an August 1 public hearing near Medellin’s Jose Maria Cordova (JMC) international airport at Rionegro, DCO proponents revealed details of their currently underway environmental impact assessment (EIA) -- and answered some testy questions from a crowd of more than 200 citizens here.

Citing enormous traffic growth in the Oriente region and huge housing-development plans around the Llanogrande district and other neighborhoods near the Rionegro international airport, DCO general manager German Perez explained the rationale for the proposed COP$400 billion (US$138 million), 13.8-kilometers-long DCO.

If the privately funded project wins crucial permits from local environmental agency Cornare, and if required capital is raised, and if the proponents successfully purchase private lands along the route, then DCO could start building this highway as early as mid-2020, Perez told Medellin Herald  following his presentation at the public hearing here.

The proposed highway – which would include a toll booth midway (charging at least COP$14,300/US$4.95 per car) -- would run roughly parallel to the existing, two-lane “Variante al Aeropuerto” highway between Sancho Paisa and the soon-to-be-opened “Tunel de Oriente” highway connecting Medellin directly to the JMC airport.

The DCO highway would cut through some of suburban-Medellin’s poshest gated-community districts, including the “El Tablazo” neighborhood near the city of Rionegro.

Some of the residents in these areas told DCO proponents here that they’re worried about potential damage to spring-waters, flora and fauna, as well as excessive traffic noise, air pollution and negative impacts upon the tranquility and relative lack-of crime currently enjoyed in the area.

One resident here pointed out that the route would pass through the “Espirito Santo” forest reserve, which has a stream that feeds the “La Fe” water reservoir in El Retiro.

Medellin utility EPM is now building a vast network of pipes to carry that water from “La Fe” to new, burgeoning residential and commercial developments in Llanogrande. So the utility ought to take note of potentially  “tragic” damage to water resources as well as the precious “biological corridor” of Espirito Santo, according to one resident here.

Other residents here also complained that the project would unfairly benefit Antioquia Governor Luis Perez, who owns a “finca” (farm) alongside the proposed route.

But the DCO proponents – among which are three board members of Medellin-based highway construction/operating giant Devimed – argue that new highways (including DCO) are critical to avoid a total collapse of traffic in the Oriente region over the next five-to-10 years.

In his presentation, DCO’s Perez dismissed two other proposed alternatives: widening the existing “Variante al Aeropuerto” highway to four lanes, or else widening the two-lane highway between Sancho Paisa and El Retiro to four lanes.

Both of those options would be excessively costly for property acquisitions and would involve steeper grades, slowing traffic, he said. What’s more, some 800 families living and operating small businesses alongside the El Retiro road would confront forced removals, likely triggering a social crisis, he added.

In addition, the main traffic growth in Oriente isn’t around El Retiro, but rather in the suburbs adjacent to Rionegro and La Ceja -- and the ever-more-crowded highways connecting those cities to Medellin, he explained.

While some residents may be upset about the proposed DCO highway, they should better direct their complaints to local mayors that continue to issue massive numbers of building permits, bringing ever-worsening traffic jams, DCO’s Perez added.

Published in Medellín Metro News Written by July 31 2018 0

EPM general manager Jorge Londoño de la Cuesta announced in a July 31 press conference that the company will sell its 10% stake in power transmitter ISA and minority stakes in several other non-strategic companies -- as well as its wholly-owned Chilean water and wind-power utilities -- over the next six to 12 months.

The sales likely would net EPM between COP$3.5 trillion (US$1.2 billion) to COP$4 trillion (US$1.38 billion), Londoño revealed.

The proposed asset sales still must be approved by Medellin’s City Council, as the city of Medellin is the 100% owner of EPM, Londoño explained.

The asset sales are needed to cover required, continuing investments in utility expansions and upgrades in Colombia, as well as costs for repairing damages and delayed electricity sales at the US$5 billion, 2.5-gigawatt “Hidroituango” hydroelectric dam in Antioquia.

The first electricity sales from the dam are now estimated to start in 2021, rather than the initial plan to start-up the first of eight Hidroituango turbine generators (each 300-megawatts) in December 2018.

A geological fault that led to a diversion-tunnel collapse and machine-room flooding at Hidroituango three months ago has forced EPM to take drastic measures to save the project as well as to ensure continuing payments to the city of Medellin, which gets about 25% of its annual revenues from EPM.

Besides the asset sales, EPM is also contemplating a delay of about 20% of its planned investments (about COP$2 trillion/US$692 million) over the next three to four years, including likely cancellation of an earlier-planned investment in a water desalination plant in Chile.

In addition, EPM has drawn-up plans to slash up-to-COP$1 trillion (US$346 million) in overhead costs over the next four years, or about COP$250 billion (US$86 million) per year.

However, the company won’t slash its estimated COP$10 trillion (US$3.46 billion) budget for planned investments in Colombia (mainly in Medellin and Antioquia) for continuing expansion and upgrade of its water, sewer and electric-power utilities here over the next few years.

Nor will it sell more bonds to raise cash, as EPM aims to maintain its current 3.5-times debt-to-EBITDA (earnings before interest, taxes, depreciation and amortization) ratio for its investment-grade rating, he said.

As for continuing work at the Hidroituango dam and related infrastructure, EPM will have completed a rock-reinforcement project to the current dam height of 418 meters above sea-level by end-August, and will have completed the planned interior concrete wall by end-October 2018, he said.

As for problematic diversion tunnels, a first-phase closing of the collapsed tunnel will be completed by mid-to-late October, while the second and third phases of closure (using cement) will take about another six months, he said.

In addition, two other mainly unused (and mainly undamaged) diversion tunnels will be permanently cemented and shuttered over the next nine months.

As for the machine room – temporarily used to evacuate Cauca River water flows because of the diversion tunnel collapse – workers hope to shut-off river flows to that room by as early as late September, enabling work crews to enter and evaluate damages.

A new diversion-tunnel boring -- which would enable draining much of the lake behind the dam, as required to complete certain other dam-construction tasks next year – could be completed by as early as end-2018, he added. This tunnel could evacuate from 400 to 500 meters per second of Cauca River water, he estimated.

On another front, EPM just hired Chilean consultant “Skava” to investigate and provide a definitive report on exactly what caused the diversion tunnel collapse. That investigation starts in August and should be complete in three or four months, he said.

As for insurance coverages, EPM can’t count on payments to cover damage possibly caused by civil-works contractor errors until the Skava report is completed.

Similarly, insurance payments to cover damage to the machine room can’t be estimated until the workers can enter and inspect damages.

As for loss-of-electricity sales – caused by the three-year delay in power-generation start-up – EPM still hasn’t been able to calculate the net financial loss because of remaining uncertainties about when full-scale production of power from Hidroituango will commence, he added.

Published in Medellín Metro News Written by July 27 2018 0

Colombia’s Financiera de Desarrollo Nacional (FDN, a national development bank) announced July 25 that its board of directors approved a 17-year term loan of up-to-COP$500 billion (US$173 million) for the “Mar 2” highway project linking Medellin to current and future Atlantic ports.

“The credit granted by the FDN represents 25% of the total financing of the project,” according to FDN. The Mar 2 project “also will have financing from the Chinese Development Bank, which will represent 37% of its total financing.”

FDN added that it’s “co-structuring” the loan package with Sumitomo Mitsui Bank and is leading a “search for additional resources in pesos and mobilization of sources for the project.”

“Mar 2” will connect with the under-construction “Mar 1” project west of Medellin, which includes a new, twin tunnel adjacent to the existing “West Tunnel” connecting Medellin to Santa Fe de Antioquia.

The Mar 2 project also links to the under-construction “Toyo” tunnel, which eventually will become the longest highway tunnel in Colombia.

Not only will “Mar 1” and “Mar 2” drastically improve freight transport between Medellin and Atlantic ports, but the projects also will improve connections to the “Transversal de las Américas” highway project along the Caribbean coast.

The “Mar 2” contract covers a total length of 277.7 kilometers, of which 17.7 kilometers involve new construction, 51.6 kilometers involve highway upgrades, 71.4 kilometers involve rehabilitation of existing roadway, and 137 kilometers involve highway operation and maintenance.

Thanks to the project, vehicles will cut about two hours of travel time between Medellin and Atlantic ports, with improvements in average speeds ranging from 60 to 80 kilometers per hour, up from 40 to 60 kilometers/hour currently, according to FDN.

Sponsors of the project include China Harbor Communication Construction (CHEC), with a 60% share, plus SP Ingenieros (20% share), Unica (15% share) and Termotecnica (5% share), according to FDN.

CHEC’s involvement represents “the first time that a Chinese company participates in a highway concession project in Colombia,” according to FDN.

CHEC is a subsidiary of China Communications Construction Company (CCCC), the fourth-largest engineering and construction company in the world in terms of revenue, and the third largest transport infrastructure company in the world in terms of revenue and market capitalization, according to FDN.

Meanwhile, Medellin-based S.P. Ingenieros S.A.S., founded in 1983, “has been in charge of the construction, improvement and rehabilitation of more than 1,200 kilometers of roads and 14 kilometers of tunnels and bridges,” according to FDN.

Unica and Termotécnica – both subsidiaries of Bogota-based Ethuss Group -- are involved in numerous Colombian infrastructure projects, including the “Conexión Norte” highway in Antioquia as well as other projects including oil pipelines and airport construction.

On a related front, FDN also announced that it granted a bank guarantee to Termotécnica for up to COP$57 billion (US$17 million) “to support the equity contributions of both [Termotecnica] and Unica to the Mar 2 project,” according to FDN.

Published in Medellín Metro News Written by July 17 2018 0

Colombia’s science-investigation unit Colciencias announced July 16 that it’s teaming-up with government officials for a first-ever “BioExpedition” this month near Anorí, northeast Antioquia – an area forbidden to nature-lovers because of decades of FARC guerrilla violence.

According to the announcement (see: http://www.colciencias.gov.co/sites/default/files/upload/noticias/prototipo_ficha_municipal_anori_-_julio_12.pdf), the BioExpedition will involve 22 researchers from the Eafit, Antioquia and CES universities; three United Nations officials, five community leaders, five professionals from Colciencias and 10 former FARC guerrillas who will help guide the group.

The expedition opens an opportunity to “discover the natural richness of a territory that was unexplored by institutions and scientists as a consequence of the armed conflict,” according to Colciencias.

Anorí hosts 52,000 hectares of continuous tropical humid forest, with animal, plant and insect species that may even be unknown to science, according to the organization. The explorers aim to find and categorize amphibians, birds, mammals, reptiles, orchids and butterflies, as well as produce a television documentary.

“The starting point of the BioExpedition will be the village of La Tirana, and a camp will be established to cover an area of investigation including the Anorí River, the Hiracales stream and the Nechí River,” according to Colciencias.

The Colombian Army will establish a unified command post to monitor daily the safety and health of the explorers, and “checkpoints will be placed in strategic locations,” according to the organization.

“This initiative [also] constitutes a key process for the design of strategies of [former guerrilla fighters] reincorporation and rural development around biodiversity,” according to Colciencias.

Published in Medellín Metro News Written by July 12 2018 0

EPM general manager Jorge Londoño de la Cuesta revealed in a July 11 press conference that engineers are making more progress in recovering the US$5 billion, 2.4-gigawatt “Hidroituango” hydroelectric dam project in Antioquia in the wake of a temporary emergency caused by a geological fault and a diversion-tunnel failure last May.

Thanks to falling water levels in the Cauca river – the result of the typical Colombia summer-dry-season starting in July – waters behind the dam have dropped to 380 meters above sea level, down nearly 14 meters from a peak in June. This will help accelerate engineering work and recovery efforts.

“According to hydrological forecasts, it is estimated that the reservoir will stabilize between elevations 370 meters above sea level and 375 meters above sea level” during the summer season, according to EPM.

Meanwhile, some relatively minor landslides above the intake gates for the tunnels leading to the machine room (where the generator turbines eventually will be located) prompted EPM to begin building a metallic-roof structure that will protect workers, machinery and equipment at the site, Londoño explained.

In that area, workers soon will install closure gates for the tunnels -- hence enabling EPM to enter and repair whatever damage might be found in the machine room powerhouse, which has been used temporarily to evacuate Cauca river water because of the diversion-tunnel failure last May.

“Once we complete the civil works and install the gates of [machine-room entry tunnels] 1 and 2, in about a month, we will be able to to close the flow of water through the powerhouse,” according to EPM.

Meanwhile, last Friday (July 6), EPM radar monitors detected a rock fall in a road tunnel leading to the machine house, “which caused a slight decrease in the flow of water through the discharge tunnels,” although subsequent flows are now stable, according to the company.

“For the closure of the powerhouse, the company is working on a plan that includes closing a [Cauca River water] catchment gate and leaving a second gate open to allow [a required minimum] ecological flow to the Cauca River [downstream of the dam]. When the level of the reservoir [behind the dam] is very close to reaching the height of the engineered spillway at 401 meters above sea level, this second gate will be closed and the water flow through the machine house will be interrupted,” thus enabling EPM workers to enter and begin repairs -- hopefully before year-end 2018, Londoño added.

With both the diversion tunnel and the machine-house tunnels closed, that means that Cauca River waters will instead flow safely over the engineered spillway, avoiding water-flooding in tunnels.

Meanwhile, EPM continues works to raise the dam to 418 meters above sea level over the next few weeks, after which a specialist contractor -- Soletanche Bachy Cimas -- will begin injecting a special type of concrete (bentonite and cement) inside the dam, further reinforcing the works, he explained.

This reinforcement work is likely to be completed by year-end 2018 or the first few weeks of 2019, hence ensuring that the dam can withstand any floods that theoretically might happen once every 500 years, Londoño explained. Dam construction nevertheless will continue to 435 meters above sea level -- virtually eliminating any possible dam-overtopping by some theoretical, Biblical-style flood.

“For the definitive plugging of the right diversion tunnel and the auxiliary diversion system, EPM and the CCC Ituango construction consortium are advancing in technical and economic negotiations with [Houston-based] Halliburton, specialized in drilling for the oil industry," EPM added. "This company will finalize in the next weeks the engineering design to proceed with the contracting and execution phases,” according to EPM.

Final closure of that diversion tunnel is estimated to be completed around October, Londoño added.

As for EPM’s concurrent social work to help downstream populations in Puerto Valdivia -- temporarily moved to shelters far-above the river's edge during the emergency -- “of the 1,640 families that can receive financial support from EPM to temporarily rent a home and pay their monthly maintenance, 929 families already obtained this support and another 711 families are in the process of being processed. EPM has provided all the resources so that the evacuees have comprehensive attention in the current circumstances,” the company added.

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Medellin Herald is a locally produced, English-language news and advisory service uniquely focused upon a more-mature audience of visitors, investors, conference and trade-show attendees, property buyers, expats, retirees, volunteers and nature lovers.

U.S. native Roberto Peckham, who founded Medellin Herald in 2015, has been residing in metro Medellin since 2005 and has traveled regularly and extensively throughout Colombia since 1981.

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