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Medellín Metro News 111

Published in Medellín Metro News Written by May 22 2018 0

Medellin-based multinational electric power giant EPM announced 12 pm Thursday, May 24 that it finally reached a crucial safety milestone toward eventual completion of its under-construction, 2.4-gigawatt “Hidroituango” hydroelectric dam on the Cauca River, which had been threatened with possible collapse.

Over the past three weeks, EPM hurriedly scrambled to raise the dam height to at least 410 meters above-sea-level – a height that enables excess Cauca River water to flow safely through an engineered spillway near the top, at 401 meters above sea level, or nine meters below the dam height. The spillway hence avoids water overtopping the dam, which could have caused disaster. 

Now, over the next few weeks, EPM will continue raising the dam height, to at least 415 meters, and will move to close two existing water-diversion tunnels, hence enabling repair work to the mechanical room, damaged during a tunnel-blockage emergency, according to the company.

In recent weeks, excess water flowing on the Cauca has been diverted through engineered diversion tunnels as well as the under-construction mechanical room, all of which are located far below the dam.

However, two out of three of the diversion tunnels had been blocked by rocks and dirt (and possibly logs) -- either occasionally or permanently over the past three weeks -- coincidentally during exceptionally heavy rains in April and May. Unfortunately, the third alternative diversion tunnel had already been cemented-in, in anticipation of a normal, scheduled evolution of the construction project.

A previously undetected geological fault near the main diversion tunnel might have been exposed to surging Cauca River waters over the past weeks, triggering partial tunnel collapses and Cauca water escape-route blockages, EPM officials said.

Suddenly, on May 13, a temporary blockage in the main diversion tunnel burst free, sending millions of gallons of floodwaters downstream, overflowing banks at the town of Puerto Valdivia, causing damage to several dozen homes and a passenger bridge.

That same diversion tunnel still potentially could suddenly unplug in coming days, causing another, temporary flood surge around Puerto Valdivia -- even after the dam spillway is completed, EPM warned.

Fortunately, EPM already set-up an elaborate earning-warning system, alerting residents downstream of the dam well in advance of any possible flood. Thanks to that system, vulnerable populations had long since moved to safer, higher ground, so no-one was killed or injured in the May 13 incident.

That one-time flood incident and the potential threat of a future dam collapse also had forced nearly 24,000 people -- including some 3,300 in the town of Puerto Valdivia -- to flee to higher ground, where they’ve been living for more than a week now, awaiting cancellation of flood threats.

As a result of the completion of the dam spillway system, only the 3,300 residents of Puerto Valdivia will have to remain in higher-ground shelters for the time being, EPM added today.

Despite the typical inconveniences of temporary displacement, at least the evacuees are receiving free food, water, shelter, beds and medical care, all paid-for and organized by EPM. EPM also will pay-for reconstruction of damaged or destroyed homes as well as related infrastructure.

Still, by averting a dam collapse, EPM avoided a disaster that could have wiped-out everything alongside its path for many miles downstream, threatening homes and lives of as many as 200,000 people.

When the main diversion tunnel plugged 10 days ago, EPM temporarily re-routed the Cauca river overflow through the under-construction mechanical room, providing a safe water escape pathway until the dam-raising construction would reach at least 410 meters.

While this temporary diversion helped avoid a catastrophe, it also has caused as-yet-unspecified damage to the mechanical room. Still, EPM managed to rescue some expensive equipment prior to the re-routing through the mechanical room.

Besides physical damage to the mechanical room, the flooding and blockage incident also will push-back start-up of the first 300-megawatts (MW) of the 2.4-gigawatt hydropower project beyond the initially targeted December 2018 start-up, according to EPM.

Despite these disappointments, Colombia’s national association of power producers (ALCOGEN) issued a bulletin May 10 advising that Colombia won’t be lacking power capacity for at least the next three years -- even if Hidroituango’s start-up is delayed by months or even years (although the latter delay now is seen less likely).

EPM also revealed that it has insurance coverage to help pay for the damage to the mechanical room and related infrastructure, as well as loss-of-income from a likely delay in power sales from Hidroituango.

Aside from relatively minor injuries to five EPM workers during the crisis, no downstream citizens were killed or injured by the temporary surges in Cauca water levels -- thanks to EPM’s well-organized alert-and-rescue operations during the crisis, involving numerous government agencies.

 

Published in Medellín Metro News Written by May 07 2018 0

Medellin’s “Metro” public transit agency announced May 4 that it just took delivery on its 80th train -- the last of 22 new trains ordered in 2016 from Spanish manufacturer Constructores y Auxiliares de Ferrocarriles (CAF).

The COP$380 billion (US$135 million) investment in the 22 new trains enables Metro to improve reliability and cut waiting times between train departures and arrivals at stations, according to the agency.

“With this new [railcar] vehicle, Metro completes 80 train units destined to meet the demand of Lines A and B, which together transport nearly 810,000 passengers a day,” according to Metro.

The mainly electric, mostly zero-emissions Metro system now mobilizes about 1.2 million passengers daily including the Metro rail system, the Metrocable aerial tram, the “Tranvía de Ayacucho” electric streetcars and the natural-gas-fueled “Metroplus” bus rapid transit (BRT) lines, the latter of which gradually will convert to pure electric power over the next decade.

While Metro initially ordered 20 new trains, it was able to get two extra trains thanks to a special government exemption on value-added tax for zero-emissions vehicles.

The last of the 22 new trains “will start the reception and testing phase today and it is estimated that in a month or so, they will begin to provide commercial service and join the 66 trains that currently provide service during peak hours,” according to Metro. The rest of the railcar fleet is held in operational reserve or else would be undergoing routine maintenance.

Because of the expanded fleet, Metro has cut the delay between train arrivals to three minutes on “Line A” (down from three minutes and 40 seconds previously) and to three minutes 50 seconds (down from four minutes 45 seconds) on "Line B."

In addition, total railcar capacity has risen to 41,480 passengers per hour, per direction, up from 35,650 passengers per hour, per direction previously, according to the agency.

“The acquisition of the new trains has also made it possible to react effectively to any technical difficulty since there are reserve trains prepared to attend to any contingency,” according to Metro.

“Another advantage of the increase in the fleet is that it will make it easier to advance the repowering of the first generation trains, one of the company's major projects for this year.

“One of the most notorious differences with the first-generation trains is that the second-generation trains enable internal communication between the three cars that make up a unit, facilitating the movement of passengers inside the vehicle.

“In addition, the trains have state-of-the-art technology and an aerodynamic design for lower energy consumption,” Metro added.

Published in Medellín Metro News Written by April 18 2018 0

Medellin-based multinational electric power giant EPM announced April 18 the launch of a novel floating solar photovoltaic (PV) power generation scheme at El Peñol lake, adjacent to the company’s 560-megawatt Guatape hydroelectric power station in Antioquia.

The floating PV station will be the first of its kind in Spanish-speaking Latin America, according to EPM.

The solar panels are projected to generate 10% to 15% more power than similar systems installed on land or on rooftops. Rationale: The floating panels can take advantage of unhindered solar illumination on lakes (where there are no shadows), get an extra boost of reflected light off the lake, and tap “free” lake water -- conveniently available for cooling the panels, explained EPM general manager Jorge Londoño de la Cuesta.

The El Peñol array includes 368 panels, connected via submarine cable to an existing, nearby EPM electric power substation. Total area of the array covers 1,430 square meters, with each panel measured at 99 x 60 centimeters, according to EPM.

“With this system, which has an installed capacity of 100 kilowatts (kW) in two modules of 50kW each, we expect to generate approximately 145 megawatt-hours per year, enough to power 15 houses for a full year,” according to EPM.

The electricity generated by the new array will be used internally at EPM’s Guatape hydroelectric power station, according to the company.

A “big data” program will analyze the power-array’s efficiency and reliability in real time over the next 12 months. Depending on results of the test, EPM then would be able to define the feasibility of expanding similar floating-PV systems to more areas.

“In many countries, installing large-scale solar PV systems on land is inhibited by the lack of space available,” Londoño de la Cuesta said. “Because of that, floating PV stations could become an alternative,” he added.

Published in Medellín Metro News Written by April 11 2018 0

Colombia’s Agencia Nacional de Infraestructura (ANI, the national infrastructure development agency) announced April 11 the successful relaunch of rail freight transport on a 522-kilometers-long line aiming to link Atlantic ports to the interior -- passing through Antioquia on the way.

ANI spent COP$212 billion (US$78 million) on the rail-line rehab project, aiming to cut freight costs between Atlantic ports and centers of industry in the Colombian interior.

Following the track upgrades, ANI this week organized a test shipment of 700 tonnes of steel and cement – first loaded at a rail-freight terminal in Chiriguaná in Cesar department, near Cartagena. Then, after passing through Cesar, Santander and Antioquia, the train made its final unloading at La Dorada in Caldas department, near Bogota.

“What we are demonstrating is that the train has the capacity to operate, to be competitive and is already moving cargo in a real way,” said ANI president Dimitri Zaninovich.

Test-run participants included the Ibines Férreo railway consortium and train operator Trencar.

Steel and cement shippers GyJ and Ultracem initially moved this cargo in highway trucks from the port of Barranquilla to the Chiriguaná rail transfer point. Then, following rail-freight arrival at La Dorada, this freight was to be transloaded to highway trucks bound for Ibague and Bogotá.

The new rail-freight option “is a reliable and safe means of transport, which reduces [air] pollution, is efficient in times and can move cargo in large volumes, while also complementing very well with other modes of transport such as road and river,” according to ANI.

However, the narrow-gauge railway infrastructure employed along this route would present problems for moving standard ocean containers. In addition, the rehabbed track doesn’t reach all the way to major ocean ports in Barranquilla and Cartagena, where much of Colombia’s nationwide containerized freight is now trans-shipped via highway trucks.

What’s more, a new “fourth generation” divided highway linking Medellin to Puerto Berrio, Antioquia -- near the newly rehabbed rail line -- has yet to be completed. Hence a future intermodal freight connection between the rehabbed rail line and the new highway linking Medellin to Puerto Berrio looks to be several years away.

Published in Medellín Metro News Written by April 10 2018 0

Medellin-based multinational utilities giant EPM on April 7 presented highlights of 2017 results including impressive growth in profitability along with expansion of water, power, garbage-collection, sewer and natural-gas services to thousands more customers in the metro area.

In a press conference, EPM general manager Jorge Londoño de la Cuesta and Medellin Mayor Federico Gutiérrez pointed-out that EPM power and garbage-collection services now cover more than 97% of Medellín residents.

Drinking-water service now reaches 95.7% of Medellin homes and businesses, while sewage connections now cover 92.25%. Piped natural gas from EPM has now grown to reach 82.75% of homes and businesses.

As for new connections, EPM added 76,741 more customers here to its electric power service last year, which now totals 2.37 million customers. Meanwhile, natural-gas hookups last year added 66,624 customers, resulting in 1.3 million total gas clients.

As for drinking water, EPM hooked-up another 41,121 new clients last year, resulting in 1.18 million total clients, while sewage hook-ups last year added 42,221 more customers, resulting in 1.15 million total clients as of year-end 2017.

As for rural electrification, EPM connected another 2,292 homes in remote areas around Antioquia last year, benefitting another 9,168 persons. Rural electrification campaigns have now hooked-up 107,156 homes in Antioquia, benefitting 444,745 residents, the company added.

‘Pay What You Can’ Expands

As for EPM’s pioneering “pay what you can” (“paga a tu medida”) program for low-income customers – enabling generous, extended payment terms – another 51,070 customers signed-up for this program last year, with 120,708 added since the program began in 2014.

Similarly, EPM’s pioneering pre-paid system for power and water services added 22,084 low-income clients last year in Antioquia, with 242,956 homes now taking advantage of this option.

Unlike some areas in Colombia (especially the Atlantic coast) where theft of power via illegal connections is rampant in low-income areas – resulting in catastrophic losses for local utilities and as a result a predictably unreliable power supply – EPM delivers reliable, high-quality, socially-conscious power and water services to all economic strata thanks to tiered rates and prepaid options.

Prepaid-power and tiered power rates – subsidizing the poorest customers, but not by 100% -- along with rational power use (prepaid for real needs, not wasted frivolously) helps ensure that EPM meets triple goals of ensuring financial soundness, quality service delivery and real help for the most vulnerable in society.

Environmental Defense

While EPM’s soon-to-launch “Hidroituango” hydroelectric plant in Antioquia – now more than 80% complete -- will inundate thousands of hectares of environmentally sensitive areas upriver of the new dam, EPM last year in compensation added 22,575 hectares of protected areas in the hydrogeographic basins of Porce (Río Grande, Río Aburrá and Porce-Alto Nechí); Nare (La Fe and Río Negro-Nare); Cauca (areas near the Hidroituango dam); and Chinchiná, the latter in the zone of influence of EPM’s “Aguas Regionales en Urabá” affiliate in the Uraba region of Antioquia.

On the air-pollution-reduction front, EPM added 10 new electric vehicle (EV) recharging stations in the Medellin metro area last year, part of a planned long-term switch aiming to replace thousands of high-polluting diesel and gasoline vehicles with zero-emission EVs. Part of this plan includes replacing 1,500 conventional combustión-engine taxis with EV taxis over the next three years, the company added.

EPM also is working with Renting Colombia and Localiza Rent a Car to enable public renting of EVs, and it's also working with the Medellin “Metro” public transit agency to expand the conversion of more conventional transit buses and motorcycles to electric power.

The company also recently added two more “micro” hydroelectric plants in Antioquia last year (La Vuelta and La Herradura), avoiding emissions of 72,908 tonnes of carbon dioxide equivalent (CO2e). Meanwhile, the recently installed “Los Cururos” solar-power station in Antioquia has achieved another 266,814 tonnes reduction of CO2e, according to the company.

As for water pollution reduction, EPM’s soon-to-open “Aguas Claras” sewage-treatment plant in Bello, Antioquia – now more than 91% complete -- will slash raw-sewage dumping into the Rio Medellin by more than 120 tonnes per day, the company added.

Similarly, in the San Nicolas valley region just east of Medellin, EPM is launching a COP$19.6 billion (US$7 million) project to expand clean-water and sewage-treatment systems for customers in metro Rionegro, El Retiro and rural areas of Envigado.

On a related front, EPM recently acquired 100% of the stock of Empresas Públicas de Rionegro (E.P. Rio), enabling improved and expanded water and sewage services for 30,308 customers in the urban area of Rionegro, the company added.

Published in Medellín Metro News Written by March 16 2018 0

The annual “Medellin Como Vamos” (“how are we doing?”) citizen survey released March 15 finds that while most Medellin residents remain relatively optimistic, Colombia’s economic slowdown in 2017 pushed the favorability index downward.

The face-to-face survey in November 2017 of 1,500 residents across all zones and all socio-economic strata found that in general -- compared to the 2016 survey -- Medellin residents trimmed their relative satisfaction with the city as a place to live, while individual satisfaction with the quality of life “fell appreciably compared to 2016 and compared to the historical average of each one of the ratings,” according to the survey report.

With employment and health being the top-two concerns of Medellin citizens, “it is telling that in [2017] the national economy showed signs of stagnation, with a consolidated growth of 1.8%, the lowest registered since 2010, and very similar to that registered in 2009, when the economy grew by 1.7%,” the report noted.

“This was reflected in fewer job opportunities for all those who sought employment in the city and the metropolitan region, with an unemployment rate that remained above 10%. Thus, while 27,000 new jobs were created, the population that was looking for work also grew, resulting in 7,000 more people unemployed.

“Regarding health, the results of the survey show that, in a context of greater coverage of the health service and greater reported access, there are still pending challenges to be solved, specifically in terms of quality,” the survey added.

Availability of prompt outpatient service declined year-on-year, “with two out of 10 Medellin residents having to wait more than 30 days,” the survey found. “Although satisfaction with the health service remained stable, comparatively [the ranking] remains one of the lowest among the goods and services investigated by the survey.”

For Medellin’s poorest sectors (“estrato 1” and “estrato 2”), the overwhelming majority of them are in the government-subsidized sector affiliated to the Savia Salud “EPS” (health maintenance organization), in which the city of Medellin owns 36.65%, the departmental Antioquia government another 36.65%, and worker-benefits cooperative insurer Comfama owning the remaining 26.7%.

Problem: Savia Salud is running more than US$250 million in the red, as spending far out-runs income -- and politicians warn of potential financial collapse. Such a collapse would leave some 1.7 million of the poorest residents in Antiqouia --the majority of which live in and around Medellin – without health insurance.

Among the 13 measurements in the survey: “subjective well-being,” in which those surveyed indicated average satisifaction of 6.99 points on a scale of 0 to 10, where 0 is the worst possible and 10 the best possible.

As for “poverty and inequality,” the percentage of inhabitants of Medellín considering themselves as “poor” fell slightly in the 2017 survey, at 19%.

As for “citizen security,” the percentage of people in Medellín who considered the city to be safe “decreased by four percentage points [in 2017] compared to 2016,” the survey found.

As for “environment,” air-pollution concerns grew, as “air is the environmental aspect of Medellín with which fewer citizens are satisfied,” according to the report. Only 15% of citizens surveyed said they were “satisified” with air quality – by far the worst result among all survey questions, the report noted.

As for “public management,” the survey found that “employment, health and housing are the agenda items that citizens propose” for the Medellin Mayor to put as highest priorities.

As for “economic situation, food and employment,” only 38% of Medellin households said their economic situation improved in 2017, wheareas in 2016, 51% cited improvements.

As for “education,” 79% of the surveyed homes in Medellín indicated they were “satisfied with the education received by children and young people between 5 and 17 years old.”

As for “housing and public services,” Medellin citizens “remained highly satisfied with their housing and their neighborhood. The public natural-gas home service maintained the highest satisfaction while internet [service] rated the lowest satisfaction," according to the report.

As for “mobility and public space,” 35% of those surveyed “affirmed that their trips took longer in 2017 than in 2016,” because of continuing growth of the motor-vehicle population -- without a corresponding growth in road infrastructure or a corresponding increase in high-capacity, high-quality public-transit options.

As for “citizen responsibility,” the survey found that “ethnic minorities, reintegrated people [those fleeing the countryside to relocate in the city] and people with different sexual orientations were the groups about whom there is less respect in Medellín.”

The annual “como vamos” surveys are sponsored by Fundación Proantioquia, the Medellin and Bogota Chambers of Commerce, Eafit University, Comfama, daily newspapers El Colombiano and El Tiempo, and Fundación Corona.

 

Published in Medellín Metro News Written by March 14 2018 0

Colombia’s Agencia Nacional de Infraestructura (ANI) infrastructure-project agency president Dimitri Zaninovich on March 13 publicly hailed what he termed as multi-billion-dollar investments in “fourth generation” (4G) highways connecting Medellin and Antioquia to key ocean freight ports.

In a speech following inspection of Colombia’s first-ever unified air-freight inspection zone at Medellin’s Jose Maria Cordova (JMC) international airport – now 56% complete and due for start-up by December 2018 -- Zaninovich cited “4G” investments that would top COP$23 trillion [US$8 billion], benefitting Medellín and Antioquia.

Zaninovich claimed that the projects are moving ahead promptly. But he failed to highlight that the crucial “Pacifico 1” divided highway -- linking the southern Medellin suburb of Caldas to Colombia’s main Pacific port at Buenaventura via the under-construction “Pacifico 2” and “Pacifico 3” highways -- has been stalled for years, with little explanation on the hang-up.

“Pacífico 2 and Pacifico 3 have advanced by 33% and 40% respectively,” he said. “We can’t lose forward progress that Colombia has achieved until now, because we’re moving ahead -- and great infrastructure projects already are a reality,” he said.

“Public-private association” (APP in Spanish initials) contracts involved in highway, ocean-port and airport projects are unprecedented in Antioquia, he added. These 4G highway projects will cut freight transport times by at least 30%, he added.

Major cities in Colombia (including Medellin) are severely penalized by expensive freight transport costs -- the result of Colombia’s decades-long delays in building high-speed, divided highways over-and-through the nation’s steep, mountainous terrain.

To overcome this problem, the national government is working with private-sector development consortiums on all the "4G" highway projects including Pacífico 1, 2 and 3; Mar 1 and Mar 2; Conexión Norte; Autopista al Río Magdalena 2; and the 100%-private initiatives “Vías del Nus” and the “Antioquia-Bolívar” highway links, he added.

What’s more, ANI is also working to push-forward the “Transversal de las Américas” highway linking Atlantic ports as well as the proposed “Vial del Oriente” highway connecting the “oriente” (east of Medellin) region to Llanogrande (next-to the JMC international airport).

Zaninovich added that ANI also favors development of two proposed ocean-freight ports near Turbo, Antioquia: “Puerto Antioquia” and “Puerto de Pisisi.”

Published in Medellín Metro News Written by February 27 2018 0

Japan’s Ambassador to Colombia Keiichiro Morishita this month unveiled new offices in Medellin of the Japan Chamber of Commerce and Industry (CCI).

The decision to open new offices here came following an initiative by local investment promotion agency ACI (Agencia de Cooperación e Inversión de Medellín).

According to ACI, the new CCI office aims to boost foreign investment in Medellin, fortify commercial exchanges and promote educational and cultural initiatives.

CCI already has offices in Bogota -- for more than 30 years -- but now aims to expand its efforts in Medellin.

CCI affiliates are mainly Japanese companies operating in Colombia as well as Colombian empresarios with commercial aims in Japan, added CCI executive director Oscar Romero.

Initially, CCI will locate its offices in Medellin’s “Ruta N” high-tech landing space, but later will move to its own headquarters, according to ACI.

Published in Medellín Metro News Written by January 27 2018 0

The Medellin-based “Vias del Nus” (“Vinus”) highway construction concessionaire announced January 22 that it won crucial permits from Agencia Nacional de Licencias Ambientales (ANLA) to build twin tunnels through “La Quiebra,” the principal obstacle blocking cost- and time-efficient freight traffic between Medellin and the Rio Magdalena.

The “Quiebra” pass currently only has an obsolete, narrow-gauge railway tunnel as well as a steep, winding highway nearby that snarls freight traffic.

According to the Vinus partners, the environmental permits from ANLA enable start-up of construction of the Quiebra highway tunnels (each 4.1-kilometers in length) as well as 5.1 kilometers of four-lane divided highway between Porcesito and the “Portal del Tunel” in Santiago, all in northern Antioquia.

“The objective of the Vias del Nus concession, which is part of the ‘Autopistas para la Prosperidad,’ is to generate a road interconnection between the city of Medellin and the main [fourth-generation] highway concessions in the country, as well as linking commercial exchange centers such as the Caribbean Coast, Pacific Coast as well as the Rio Magadalena,” according to the Vinus partners.

“This concession will allow easier and cheaper transport of products destined for export, in addition to favoring the entry of products from other regions to the department of Antioquia.

“Additionally, significant time savings will be achieved by having a design speed of 80 kilometers per hour for the new divided-highway roads and for the specific section of Cisneros-Alto de Dolores to the existing Magdalena-2 highway junction.

“Part of the work to be done consists of rehabilitating existing road and building a third lane on the uphill side of highway between San Jose del Nus and Alto de Dolores in order to improve the characteristics of the road and allow a better speed of operation than today,” according to the partners.

In total, the “Vias del Nus” project includes 154.7 kilometers of new and rehabilitated highway that begins in the northern Medellin suburb of Pradera, joining the existing Hatovial highway concession.

“Within this concession is the functional unit between Bello and Pradera that is currently concessioned to Hatovial and that will become part of the project from May 2, 2021,” according to the partners.

“This concession provides for the operation of five toll stations; four already existing in the corridor -- Niquía, Trapiche, Cabildo (Trapiche control toll station), Pandequeso -- and Cisneros, which will be moved because of the new geometry of the highway when the Quiebra tunnels enter into operation.

“To avoid the [potential] diversion of cargo traffic through the northeast route, it is expected that the Agencia Nacional de Infraestructura (ANI) and the Minstry of Transport or the government of Antioquia will issue a restriction upon cargo carriers for categories V, VI and VII on the Porcesito-La Cortada-Yolombó-Yalí-Vegachí-El Tigre-Remedios route (Northeast Trunk),” the Vinus partners added.

The Vinus concession partnership includes Mincivil S.A. (51.8%); SP Ingenieros (22.2%), Construcciones El Cóndor (21.1%); EDL (3.7%) and Latinco (1.1%).

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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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