Go, ConGo!

 By Simona Manna

“I offer you, above all, equality, co-management and the formation of a technological elite so you may not be the passive receiver of a foreign initiative, but rather a part, and not an object of this business…”
Enrico Mattei, Tunis, June 9-10, 1960

The Congo is a growing country, hungry for power and progress. Electricity for the streets and in homes is no longer a mirage and energy demand, which is gradually increasing, is met. All this thanks to the work of the Congo Power Plant (CEC), an important and necessary plant, and a positive example of a policy, that of Enrico Mattei,which immediately promoted the economic development of the Owner State of energy resources.

The Congo Power Plant was established in 2007 for the will of a company to company 80% owned by the Congolese government and 20% owned by Eni Congo

Eni arrived in Congo almost fifty years ago, in 1968. The CEC power plant was launched only six years ago and has already achieved three very important goals: coverage of more than half of the country’s energy demand (last year about 57%; this year it aims to overcome 60%), achieve zero flaring (the reduction to zero of volumes of gas related to the extraction of crude oil and flaring) in the region of the M’Boundi oilfield, and the guarantee of maximum safety, with three million hours worked – since the start of activities – without incident.


The history of this power plant is told by Mauro Dalmazzone, director general of the CEC since February 2015. “It all started in May 2006 with the signing of a protocol agreement between Eni and the Republic of Congo for the development of an offshore field known as Marine XII”, explains Dalmazzone. “This agreement stipulated that the gas produced would fuel a new power plant with an output with an initial power of 300 expandable to 900 megawatts and the study for the construction of this power plant would be assigned to Eni”. After one year “the project for constructing the Congo Power Plant was started, forming a company 80% owned by the Congolese government and 20% owned by Eni Congo, and the latter was appointed to develop the power plant project”.

The President of the Republic of Congo, Denis Sassou N’Guesso, laid the foundation stone of the plant in May 2008. During 2010, between March and November, two gas turbines were launched, 150 megawatts each, fueled by natural gas, comprising the CEC and, since then, the production of electricity began, which has increased over time. In 2010, the average annual output was approximately 30 megawatts. In 2014 it reached 132 megawatts, in 2015 it significantly exceed 165 megawatts and in 2017 the output has reached 283 megawatts.

Last year, therefore, the director general of the CEC proudly says, “the power plant covered over almost 60% of the country’s electricity demand and in the future we expect to go further. This highlights that the role of the power plant is absolutely essential for supporting the country’s economic development. Also because, alongside this plant there is a production capacity essentially linked to only two hydroelectric power plants, with a total capacity of approximately 200 megawatts: these hydroelectric power plants, however, naturally have limitations to the availability of water during the dry seasons, between June and September. Therefore, during this period the plant’s production is even more important for meeting the country’s demand”.

The story of the “Centrale Electrique du Congo” between data, images and testimonials

The Congo Power Plant, however, does not only meet the current demand, but is believed to be a fundamental support for the growth of this country, which is in a process of development: the demand for energy in Congo, in fact, is likely to continue to grow (+18% between last year and this year, and the government’s forecasts are for a 15% annual growth over the coming years) and the development of any alternative production systems, linked to hydroelectric power plants, require several years.

“In February 2015, the CEO of Eni, Claudio Descalzi and the Minister of Hydrocarbons of the Republic of the Congo, André Raphael Loemba, during the visit of the President of the Republic of the Congo to Italy, signed an agreement to launch feasibility studies on this expansion and also to verify the transport network”. The agreement plans to bring the power of the central 450 megawatts.

When we talk about covering the energy demandwe mean that which is normal for us: lighted streets, electricity in the home for lights and operating refrigerators and televisions. This “means changing peoples’ lives, especially in Pointe-Noire where, while there was no power plant, electricity was essentially produced independently”.

The fact that the CEC is a primary asset for the country also proves the fact that the identity of the power plant is strongly Congolese, “so much so that the company is composed of approximately 22 people, including only two expatriates, myself and financial officer. Then there are those who work directly in the power plant, and there is additional local activity, linked to the transport of people, the cafeteria, gardening and maintenance services. Let’s saythere are hundreds of people, most of them Congolese”.

The environmental aspect, therefore, is very important, given that “this power plant uses natural gas that until a few years ago was flared. Therefore, from an environmental point of view there is a significant positive impact”, together with that of safety: “Since the power plant was launched we have worked over three million hours without incident and this is certainly a great result”.

about the author
Simona Manna
Professional journalist since 2003 and born and bred in Sardinia. After several work experiences (Corriere della Sera, Il manifesto, El País), she currently works for news agency AGI and collaborates consistently with Oil Magazine and the we portal.