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Infrastructure 23

Colombia’s national government is about to unveil a new, COP$1.4 trillion (US$416 million) financing plan to ensure completion of the “phase two” section of highway connecting Santa Fe de Antioquia to the under-construction “Toyo” tunnel -- both of which will link Medellin westward to new and existing Atlantic freight ports as part of the “Mar 1” and “Mar 2” highways.

In a January 22 press conference, Colombia highway agency (Invias) director Juan Esteban Gil Chavarria, Antioquia Governor Anibal Gaviria Correa and Medellin Mayor Daniel Quintero jointly announced the upcoming financing deal for the 19-kilometers-long “phase two” highway (see blue line in map, above) -- details of which would be announced in the next two weeks.

Once completed, the "Mar 1" and "Mar 2" highways would drastically cut freight transit times between Medellin and the Atlantic, to around 4.5 hours.

“Phase one” of the 9.8-kilometers-long Toyo tunnel (see red line in map, above) -- recently renamed "Tunel Guillermo Gaviria Echeverri," honoring the father of former Antioquia Gov. Guillermo Gaviria Correa, murdered in 2002 by communist FARC terrorists following a peace march – is now due for opening in 2023, a year ahead of schedule, Gov. Anibal Gaviria revealed.

“The national government through Invias and ANI [the national infrastructure agency] has pledged to contribute the COP$1.4 trillion [US$416 million] necessary for the construction of 'phase two' of the Toyo Tunnel between Santa Fe de Antioquia and the eastern access to the Guillermo Gaviria Echeverri Tunnel,” Gaviria further explained.

It’s conceivable that future highway toll revenues from the under-construction “Mar 1” highway between Medellin and Santa Fe de Antioquia might be used to support the new financing package for "phase two," Invias director Gil added.

A video (in Spanish) of the joint press conference is available here: https://www.facebook.com/GobAntioquia/videos/493751238224759/

 


Medellin-based electric power transmission giant ISA announced December 12 that the Inter-American Development Bank (IDB) and the binational “Interconexion Electrica Colombia-Panama” (ICP) joint venture inked a technical cooperation funding deal in the run-up for a planned 2024 launch of the first-ever power-transfer connection line between Colombia and Panama.

The proposed project “is crucial for consolidating the regional energy market,” according to ISA, which operates Colombia’s national power grid.

The 500-kilometers-long transmission line would connect the existing Cerromatoso substation in Cordoba, Colombia, to the “Panama II” substation (Panama Province). The line would employ high-voltage, direct current (HVDC) transmission technology, at a capacity of 2x200 megawatts and a DC voltage level of ± 300 kV, according to ISA.

For project design, technical analysis and environmental surveys, IDB is now putting-up US$500,000, while ICP is contributing another US$4.96 million -- on top of US$4 million earlier invested in project feasibility studies since 2006.

ICP’s main shareholders are ISA and ETESA, Panama’s state-owned power-grid operator.

“Interconexión Eléctrica Colombia-Panamá is fundamental for consolidating the regional energy market and for integrating the Andean Community with Central America, since it already has an organized market through the SIEPAC grid,” according to ISA.

(Note: SIEPAC is the Central American Electrical Interconnection System – “Sistema de Interconexión Eléctrica de los Países de América Central” – an in-development interconnection of the power grids of six Central American nations, covering 37 million consumers in Panama, Costa Rica, Honduras, Nicaragua, El Salvador, and Guatemala.)

“This [Panama-Colombia] interconnection will have access to new renewable sources, contributing to the optimal use of energy resources available, and enabling increased system reliability by providing more generation options to meet demand growth,” according to ISA.

“It will also support countries affected by [power outage] emergencies and reduce carbon emissions due to the substitution of fossil fuels,” ISA added.

Last year, the “Guna Yala Congress” -- a British-based tropical-forest conservation organization involved with Panamanian indigenous groups – “approved the execution of technical and environmental surveys within its territory and informed the creation of a commission to support its execution,” according to ISA.

“The proposal was presented under the approach of an environmentally and comprehensively developed sustainable corridor that includes Mortí-Mulatupu Pan-American Highway, Interconexión Eléctrica transmission line, and an electrification project for communities in the influence area within the framework of the initiative called Energía para Todos en Panama 2019-2013 (Energy for Everyone in Panama: 2019-2013), led by IDB, an entity that supports this project since 2006.

“Currently, environmental impact and field design studies are being executed, which are developed in a coordinated manner and by sector. Project operations based on outstanding authorizations and surveys to be carried out would start in 2024 as estimated date.

“The interconnection topic has been included in the bilateral agenda and has been subject in various agreements between both countries.

“These agreements have ratified the will to move towards the construction of a long-term future that prioritizes energy integration among Mexico, Central America, and Colombia, as well as towards the need for reinforcing efforts for its feasibility and financing, and the need for making policy adjustments to implement the regulatory harmonization scheme,” ISA concluded.


Colombia’s national highway agency (Invias) announced late December 14 that sufficient progress on clearing a November 13 landslide at kilometer 73 (San Luis) of the Medellin-Bogota Highway has now enabled 24 hours/day traffic flows in both directions.

To date, more than 102,000 cubic meters of dirt and rocks have been removed from the landslide-site, while 73 machines and 82 workers also have enabled construction of terraces, channels and filtration systems on the affected mountainside, which will help prevent future landslides.

“Invias will continue working to execute complementary works of channels, drains, conformation of terraces as well as with the evaluation of the physical conditions of the site in order to guarantee the safety of users in this important road corridor,” the agency added.


Colombia President Ivan Duque on December 20 celebrated a restricted-hours reopening of a 600-meters-long stretch of the “Pacifico 1” highway between Medellin and Bolombolo, which had been blocked for six months by a massive landslide near Amaga.

Until all repairs and mountainside reconstructions are finally completed in the area, the road will be opened only for restricted hours, from 6 am to 5 pm daily through January 7, according to Agencia Nacional de Infraestructura (ANI, the national infrastructure agency).

Then, starting January 8, the road will be open Monday through Saturday from 6 am to 9 am for morning traffic, and from 3 pm to 6 pm for afternoon traffic. On Sundays and holidays, the road will be open from 6 am to 5 pm -- until related highway and mountainside works are eventually completed.

More than 1 million cubic meters of earth and rocks had collapsed at the “Sinifina” section of the highway last May, forcing inconvenient, slower detours through Venecia to Bolombolo, which connects with “Pacifico 2” and “Pacifico 3” highways southwestward toward the Pacific port of Buenaventura.

On a parallel front, new funding has been allocated for the design of a new bridge at Bolombolo over the Cauca River -- parallel to the existing bridge – to “facilitate the transit of cargo vehicles,” according to ANI.  Also, the national highway institute (Invias) and the Institute for the Development of Antioquia (IDEA) inked a related deal to upgrade the existing Venicia-Bolombolo road to handle detoured traffic during Pacifico 1 reconstruction works.

A new monitoring and alarm system enables 24 hours/day online supervision of the mountainside alongside this section Pacifico 1, which enables early warnings and shutdowns in case of threats of another landslide, according to the agency.

Mitigation works in the upper part of the mountainside – including canals, filtration systems and trenches – are already 80% complete, according to ANI.

“Progress has been made at a good pace in construction of two of three terraces and containment areas as elements to mitigate material slides,” according to ANI.

 


Medellin-based multinational electric power producer EPM announced November 27 an alliance with U.S.-based, global renewable-power developer Invenergy for at least 400 megawatts of solar- and wind-power generation capacity in Colombia.

The alliance will “invest, develop, build, operate and maintain unconventional renewable energy projects in Colombia, specifically with solar and wind technology,” according to a joint announcement from the new partners.

Under the deal, Invenergy will obtain financing with local and international banks, negotiate capacity in the purchase of equipment, contract with the project builders and “use its ability to transform projects into operational assets quickly,” according to EPM.

Thereafter, “EPM will have the option to purchase the [renewable energy] projects built within the framework of the alliance and will market 100% of the electric energy and emission reduction credits of the solar and wind plants,” according to the company.

EPM pioneered wind-power generation in Colombia with its “Jepírachi” project in Colombia’s Guajira region since 2004. More recently, EPM entered solar generation and “intends to continue contributing to the development of these technologies in the country,” according to the company.

For its part, Invenergy has developed more than 24,000 megawatts of capacity through 146 wind- and solar-power projects in the United States, Latin America, Japan and Europe. Among its projects: 96 wind farms with 14,914 megawatts capacity; 30 solar-power farms totaling 3,351 megawatts capacity; and 13 energy-storage units with 260 megawatts capacity, according to Invenergy.

At a press conference announcing the deal, Colombia Energy Minister María Fernanda Suárez stated that “alliances such as the one signed by EPM and Invenergy not only demonstrate the potential of renewable energies in Colombia, but also represent new opportunities for investment and employment for the benefit of the country and regions.”

For his part, Invenergy general manager Michael Polsky added that “our alliance with EPM represents a milestone for Invenergy as we enter the Colombian market and expand our presence in Latin America.”

According to the Energy Ministry, over the last 15 months Colombia's power-capacity auctions for incorporating future sources of renewable energy into its electricity matrix will boost capacity from less than 50 megawatts (what the city of Ibagué needs) currently to more than 2,200 megawatts of capacity by the year 2022 -- equivalent to the total power demand of Medellín, Cali, Cartagena and Bucaramanga combined.


Colombia’s national infrastructure agency (Agencia Nacional de Infraestructura, ANI) announced November 26 that a May 28, 2019 landslide blocking the Medellin-Bolombolo highway near Amaga should be cleared by around March 2020.

The landslide wiped-out an under-construction section of the “Pacifico 1” four-lane divided highway as well as a stretch of the existing highway below it.

On a related front, ANI simultaneously announced that it signed a new deal with Instituto para el Desarrollo de Antioquia (IDEA, the Antioquian departmental development agency) to free-up about COP$11 billion (US$3.1 million) funding for upgrades to the current alternative route (Venecia-Bolombolo) -- while awaiting the reopening of the Amaga-Bolombolo segment of the Medellin-Bolombolo highway.

What’s more, ANI announced it’s helping to fund design work for a new bridge parallel to the existing bridge over the Cauca River at Bolombolo. The existing bridge has weakened in recent years -- and as a result cannot handle heavy truck loads as in prior years.

“By signing this agreement, the improvement of sections of the Venecia-Bolombolo highway will be advanced,” along with “rehabilitation of road corridors between Camilo C-El Cinco-Fredonia and between El Cinco-Venecia,” according to ANI.

“Likewise, resources will be allocated for the designs of the new Bolombolo bridge over the Cauca River, parallel to the existing one -- which will facilitate the transit of cargo vehicles. These investments will be executed by IDEA and will begin in the next few days,” according to ANI.

Meanwhile, the “Covipacifico” construction consortium responsible for building the “Pacifico 1” highway between Medellin and Bolombolo announced that it’s making steady progress in removing the landslide and installing new terraces, trenches, filters and canals to avoid future landslides.

“To date, the mitigation and adaptation plan has made significant progress,” according to Covipacifico.

“In the lower part of the landslide, work is also carried out on the adaptation of an industrial road, whose advances are already noticeable and allow the controlled passage of machinery required for the work. Once the security conditions improve, provisional restoration of [the existing highway] with restricted passage for traffic is projected.”

“To date we have developed work without major setbacks despite the rains that have occurred in the area during the last month,” added Covipacifico general manager Mauricio Millán Drews. “These advances allow us to be moderately optimistic with the estimated term of six months [that is, starting from October 2019]. We will continue working to guarantee the minimum security conditions until the recovery of provisional access,” he said.

Meanwhile, Colombia’s Transportation Minister Ángela María Orozco announced at a November 25 conference in Medellin that five “fourth generation” (4G) highway projects in Antioquia have now reached at least 40% completion.

“Among the projects, the ‘Vías del Nus’ corridor stands out, whose objective is to connect Medellín directly with the Port of Cartagena, as well as the north of the country and the northeast of Antioquia with the concession of Ruta del Sol, through Puerto Berrío,” according to ANI. “This concession will allow transporting products destined for export more easily and economically. This route records an advance of 48.91%."

As for the “Mar 1” highway connecting Medellin westward to Santa Fe de Antioquia, this project has already achieved a COP$2.23 trillion (US$638 million) financial close, while the “Mar 2” project (connecting with Mar 1) to new Atlantic ports likewise has won COP$652 billion (US$186 million) financial close, Orozco noted.

As for the “Pacifico 2” project connecting Bolombolo southward alongside the Cauca River to La Pintada, Antioquia, this project is due for completion by October 2020, she added.


Colombia’s national highway institute Invias announced November 25 the partial reopening of the Medellin-Bogota highway at kilometer 73 (San Luis, Antioquia) following a November 13 landslide that blocked all traffic.

According to Invias, more than 84,000 cubic meters of rocks and dirt have been removed so far, but the job isn’t quite finished.

As a result, only one lane of the two-lane highway is now open for alternating traffic between 7 a.m and 7 p.m. daily -- “as long as weather conditions allow and the condition of the hillside [where the landslide began] does not affect the safety for users,” according to Invias.

In total, 70 pieces of heavy equipment including backhoes, dump trucks and bulldozers are working to clear the site and unblock the adjacent “La Leticia” stream crushed by the landslide. One motorist was killed in the landslide incident, but no other fatalities or injuries have since been reported.

The removed dirt and rocks have been transported to the municipality of San Luis for reuse on tertiary rural roads, according to Invias.


Medellin’s “Plaza Mayor” on November 14 unveiled a COP$32 billion (US$9.4 million) expansion plan that over the next 10 years would modernize a host of convention facilities and add a new hotel.

The “2019-2029 Events with a Future” scheme includes 10 proposals both within and outside the convention center, along with “modernization of spaces and extension of complementary services,” according to Plaza Mayor, which is owned by the City of Medellin.

A new tower would be built over the current parking lot at the Yellow Pavilion, incorporating a 200-room hotel, co-working spaces and office spaces.

The tower also would offer “small- and medium-sized salons and other services such as restaurants, spa, beauty salon and commerce,” according to the organization.

Plaza Mayor general manager Juliana Cardona Quirós pointed out that the additions and upgrades would capitalize on Medellin’s growing global event-marketing successes, with the city having hosted more than 371 international events in just the last four years.

As a result, Plaza Mayor would extend its offer of convention services to other areas of the city.

At Plaza Mayor, projects would include expansion and adaptation of annexed areas at the Yellow Pavilion, relocating the garbage-recycling zone and making the Blue Pavilion independent.

The scheme also includes developing “pleasant spaces for rest, work and meetings, to ensure comfort and connectivity for our visitors,” according to the organization.

A new electronic signaling system would help visitors orient themselves around the various spaces, while a new “Innovation Center” aims to boost business tourism.

A new food area would replace the existing area “providing more and better offers for customers and visitors,” according to Plaza Mayor.

The scheme also includes creation of a single event-ticket window (replacing multiple sites) for greater customer convenience, as well as storage lockers and improved connectivity.


Colombia’s Agencia Nacional de Infraestructura (ANI, the national infrastructure agency) announced October 2 that the crucial “Vias del Nus” connecting Medellin’s northern suburbs to Atlantic ports will open for traffic by end-2020.

The 157.4-kilometers-long project includes 24.3 kilometers of four-lane divided highway, the twin-tube “Túnel de la Quiebra” tunnels, rehabilitation of 35.6 kilometers of two-lane highway between Cisneros and Alto Dolores, construction of a third lane along 2.7 kilometers of highway between San José del Nus and Alto Dolores and the construction of 15 bridges, according to ANI.

Once opened, “Vias del Nus” will become “ the main cargo outlet from Medellín to the ports of the Caribbean Coast,” according to ANI.

The new, COP$515.6 billion (US$149 million) tunnels will enable traffic to pass beneath the heretofore problematic Alto de la Quiebra mountain in just 10 minutes -- compared to the tortuous, 40-minutes-long climb-and-descent on the existing road.

Currently, the average traffic on the “Vias del Nus” corridor is 2,000 vehicles daily. But once the new highway is in operation, average daily traffic is expected to increase to around 17,000 vehicles, greatly improving freight movements between Medellin and the Atlantic with average vehicle speeds of about 80 kilometers per hour, according to ANI.

Each tube of the "Tunel de la Quiebra" will be 4.2 kilometers long, requiring excavation of tough batholitic rock. Linear progress is about 600 meters per month, with 7,500 meters of a total of 8,400 meters already excavated, according to ANI. 


Medellin-based power giant EPM on September 27 gave journalists a first public tour of the start of recovery work in the damaged machine room of the US$5 billion, 2.4-gigawatt “Hidroituango” hydroelectric project in Antioquia.

Having already reached crucial milestones including completion of the engineered spillway, raising the dam to its final height and draining water from the damaged machine room, EPM will by end-October 2019 open a new highway at the top of the dam -- bringing convenient mobility to residents in towns near the dam including the municipality of Ituango, according to the company.

At the same time, the company continues to make progress toward final installation of a second, crucial water-closure gate for the auxiliary diversion tunnel (GAD in Spanish initials), whose collapse last year forced temporary diversion of Cauca River water through the machine room, causing hundreds of millions of dollars of losses due to lost power revenues and infrastructure damages.

Meanwhile, opening of the main access tunnel to the machine room has now been completed, enabling heavy machinery to enter for repair work, according to EPM.

“To date, 80% of the caverns around the machinery, transformers, beacons and adjacent tunnels have been cleared,” according to EPM.

“Civil-works damage to infrastructure has been found in 20% of these inspected areas. As of December 31 of this year, we expect to have 100% of the complex of caves inspected and damages calculated, in order to continue with repairs.”

A nearby technical monitoring center meanwhile enables real-time evaluation of the behavior of the dam and the other works of the project.

“Currently the indicators show that the works and the rock massif [adjacent to the dam] are stable,” according to EPM. “All the typical leaks found in such projects are evaluated permanently and to date all remain within the ranges contemplated in the project design.”

The company continues to expect that initial power production from Hidroituango will start by end-2021, then gradually expand until reaching its full 2.4-gigawatts output capacity by 2024.

According to EPM, among the project’s enormous fiscal and environment benefits include:

Emissions reductions of the order of 4.4 million tons of carbon dioxide (CO2) per year -- 94% of the goal of Colombia’s entire electricity sector by 2030. “This represents a significant contribution to meeting the goals of Colombia in the commitments of COP21 [Conference of the Parties to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change],” according to EPM.

“It will deliver about COP$85 billion (US$24.6 million) each year for transfers to Colombia’s regional environmental agencies [such as Corantioquia and Cornare in Antioquia] and 153 municipalities, including those in the area of the dam’s influence, which includes the Cauca River basin.

“Additionally, via regional taxes and other contributions to other entities, the project will generate approximately COP$10 billion (US$2.9 million) per year. During the operational life of the project, resources will be generated of the order of COP$8 trillion (US$2.3 billion).

“Colombia will receive national income taxes of approximately COP$240 billion (US$69 million) annually, which will correspond during the operation of the project in resources for the nation totalling about COP$18 trillion (US$5.2 billion).

“The project includes compensation and recovery of about 19,000 hectares of tropical dry forest and tropical rainforest in the 12 municipalities of the area of influence, which becomes an opportunity for [protection of] biodiversity of the territory.

“Within the framework of the environmental and social management plan and regarding connectivity, about COP$1.9 trillion (US$550 million) have been invested in the 12 municipalities in the area of influence, which has resulted in a valuable contribution to the progress of its inhabitants and to the transformation of a territory that has historically suffered from national government abandonment and violence by of illegal armed groups.”

Once in operation, “the energy supply from the project will allow a reduction close to 30% in the [national] cost of power during its first five years of operation,” according to the company.

In addition, “power generation from Hidroituango -- interconnected to the Caribbean coast -- will enable a more-than-20% reduction in power costs paid by users of the current thermoelectric power in that region.”

National power reliability also will improve -- without causing an increase of global-warming emissions that result from “firm” power plants running on coal, oil or natural gas, the company noted.

Hidroituango has a firm energy output capacity of 5,708 gigawatt-hours per year – “energy that can be produced even in the worst drought in history,” according to EPM, and without any CO2 emissions.

If not for Hidroituango, Colombia otherwise would need to build another750-MW thermal power plant to ensure reliable, 24 hours/day power-- with a consequent carbon footprint that would violate Colombia’s commitment to meeting CO2-reduction goals under the COP21 agreement, the company added.

What’s more, because “green” solar or wind power are only intermittent – they don’t work when the sun isn’t shining and when the wind isn’t blowing -- Hidroituango’s constant 2.4-gigawatts power capacity is equivalent to installing about 5 gigawatts wind power or 3.8 gigawatts of solar energy, EPM 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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