Río Turbio power station

From Global Energy Monitor


The Río Turbio power station is a two-unit, 240-megawatt (MW) coal-fired power station under development in Río Turbio, Santa Cruz, Argentina.


The photo below shows the project in Río Turbio, Santa Cruz.

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Making use of coal from the nearby Río Turbio coal mine, the Río Turbio power station is projected to consume 5,400 tons of coal a day and produce 1.6 million tons of waste a year.

The plant's construction prompted early opposition from environmental groups including Greenpeace, which saw Río Turbio as a key element in the Argentine government's plan to increase coal-fired electricity from 0.5% to 4% of the national market by 2025.[1] As of February 2014, construction of the US$350 million plant was 90% complete, with generation tests scheduled for December. National state coal mining company YCRT expects to have a two-year supply of coal stockpiled in time for the plant's opening. When it goes online, it will be Argentina's first 100% coal-fired power plant.[2]

In October 2014, the independent journalists' organization OPI Santa Cruz reported that the new power plant would likely miss its scheduled December 4 commissioning date.[3] The same month, Clarín suggested that the plant would not be operational until 2015 and reported that the Río Turbio mine was only producing 16% of the coal required to operate the new plant (19,008 tons per month vs. the 112,320 tons required). Clarín's article further noted that the mine's coal production actually decreased 3% between 2004 and 2014, despite the fact that the workforce had tripled from 994 to 2941 employees.[4]

In May 2015, Federal Planning Minister Julio De Vido reconfirmed the Argentine government's intentions to fuel the new plant exclusively with coal, despite media reports that natural gas was to be used as an alternative fuel source.[5]

Unit 1 of the Río Turbio plant was briefly brought online in August 2015[6] and officially inaugurated by Argentine president Cristina Kirchner during her campaign for re-election in September 2015.[7] However, Unit 1 had to be shut down just 48 hours after the ceremony, and officials at Isolux Corsán, the plant's construction company, subsequently branded the 2015 start-up as premature, a campaign stunt that caused lasting damage to the plant.[8] Afterwards, Ms. Kirchner used social media to refute claims that the plant was incapable of operating at full capacity on coal power and that the plant would generate 1800 tons of ash daily, with no plans for its disposal. Ms. Kirchner tweeted that Unit 2 was 90% complete, with an anticipated startup date of December 2015, adding that within 90 days newly expanded infrastructure would allow the production and transport of over 100,000 tons of coal per month, and asserting that even at full capacity, the plant would only generate 618 tons of ash daily, all of which would be used in the production of slag cement.[9]

As of November 2015 Unit 1 remained shut down, reportedly for lack of coal. This was followed by revelations the government had explored making the plant run on gas, but officials now say the plant will fully run on coal. Completion of unit 2 has been delayed by financial difficulties, including nonpayment of workers.[10]

As of October 2016, operations at the plant remained paralyzed due to insufficient coal production. The Argentine newspaper La Nación reported that the Río Turbio mine was barely capable of producing 10% of the 100,000 tons of coal required for the plant's monthly operations, and attributed this shortfall to the misappropriation of funds earmarked for technological improvements to the mine.[11]

In December 2016, the Argentine government decided to finish the project, and reopened negotiations with Isolux Corsán. The plan was to finish the project by 2018.[12] However, Isolux Corsán went bankrupt shortly thereafter, prompting the Argentine government to say that it would finish the project itself if necessary.[13] In May 2017, the state mining company announced plans to increase the mine's capacity, although the labor union was opposed to the plans.[14]

As of late 2017, neither unit of the Río Turbio power station was operational, and the project remained paralyzed by insufficient coal production at the adjacent mine. A feature story published by La Nación in September 2017 stated that future development of the Río Turbio power station remains contingent on the mine's ability to increase coal production from 80,000 tons annually to the 1.2 million tons required by the power station's two units, and noted that the entire project has been further paralyzed by widespread allegations of corruption and misappropriations of funds dating back more than a decade, with at least 13 pending lawsuits directed at former Argentine Planning Minister Julio De Vido and other government officials involved with the project.[15]

In March 2018 the Argentine government announced that it had rescinded Isolux's contract to operate the plant, had taken possession of the plant, and would be conducting an evaluation to determine its future.[16] In September 2018 YCRT announced that the mine's production would be increased to 30,000 tons a month beginning in December 2018, which would be sufficient to power the plant.[17] In February 2019 the mine resumed exporting coal for the first time since 2013.[18]

The Río Turbio power station got a new lease on life with the October 2019 election of Argentine president Alberto Fernández and vice president Cristina Fernández de Kirchner. Fernández's predecessor Mauricio Macri had opposed further work on the Río Turbio plant on the basis that the US$240 million needed to bring the plant online made the project unprofitable, and Unit 2 appeared to be shelved indefinitely upon the conclusion of Macri's term in office. However, Fernández's government has since revived support for the project.[8]

In May 2020, the Argentine government announced that it was transferring responsibility for the Río Turbio power station from IEASA (Integración Energética Argentina S.A.), a public agency administered by Argentina's Secretary of Energy, back to the state mining company YCRT.[19] The transfer was made at the request of YCRT's comptroller Aníbal Fernández, who affirmed the company's renewed commitment to selling coal-fired energy from the Río Turbio plant[20], including plans to fund renewed construction of Unit 2 with income from Unit 1.[21]

Government funding for the Río Turbio power station, which had been virtually eliminated under Macri's presidency, was revived in 2020.[22] The budget passed by Argentina's congress in November 2020 approved 2.4 billion Argentine pesos (ARS) for the Río Turbio project in 2021, a dramatic increase over the ARS 150 million allocated in 2019.[23] YCRT representatives estimated that Unit 1 could begin operations as early as February 2021, subject to limitations imposed by the coronavirus pandemic.[24]

On April 2, 2021, the plant began to generate electricity and send it to the National Interconnected System.[25]

Financial & Legal Issues

A May 2020 article in the newspaper Clarín noted that even if both Río Turbio units are eventually completed, the cost of the electricity generated would be at least 12 times higher than current market rates, due to cost overruns and alleged corruption still under investigation in Argentina's courts. Clarín cited US$1.6 billion in construction expenditures to date, with at least an additional US$240 million required to get the plant up and running, a dramatic increase from the plant's initial estimated cost of US$857 million. Clarín further noted that even if the plant were eventually to operate at its full two-unit, 240MW capacity, one-sixth of the electricity generated (40MW) would be needed just to keep the plant operational.[8]

In November 2020, YCRT's comptroller Aníbal Fernández filed fraud complaints against former YCRT officials Omar Zeidán and Sergio Lumachi. The two officials, both appointed under Macri's presidency, stand accused of having misappropriated ARS 32 million in 'advertising and communication' funds for the Río Turbio plant, despite Macri's rejection of the project as 'unviable' and his government's firing of 1000 workers at the plant.[23]

Project Details

  • Sponsor: YCRT (Yacimientos Carbon Río Turbio)[19]
  • Parent company: YCRT (Yacimientos Carbon Río Turbio)[19]
  • Location: Río Turbio, Santa Cruz, Argentina
  • Coordinates: -51.5460148, -72.2312558 (exact)
  • Status:
    • Unit 1: Operating[25]
    • Unit 2:
  • Gross Capacity:
  • Type: Subcritical
  • Projected in service: April 2021[25]
  • Coal Type:
  • Coal Source:
  • Source of financing:

Articles and resources


  1. Marcela Valente, "ARGENTINA: Adding More Coal to the Fire," IPS, May 10, 2010.
  2. "Argentina's First 100% Coal-fired Plant Nears Completion". Coal Age. March 28, 2014.
  3. "Técnicamente es poco probable que la Usina de Río Turbio, pueda entrar en servicio el 4 de diciembre de 2014", OPI Santa Cruz, October 23, 2014.
  4. "Río Turbio triplicó su personal pero produce menos carbón", Clarín, October 19, 2014.
  5. "Río Turbio: construyen una central a carbón, pero funcionará con gas". La Nación. May 2, 2015.
  6. "Histórico: La central térmica de Río Turbio se unió a la Red Nacional", Minuto Uno, August 20, 2015.
  7. "Cristina inaugura parte de la central Termoeléctrico de Río Turbio", La Nación, September 4, 2015.
  8. 8.0 8.1 8.2 "Aníbal Fernández gana poder: manejará también la obra de la Usina de Río Turbio investigada por sobreprecios". Clarín. May 15, 2020.
  9. "Cristina desmintió una nota de Clarín y aclaró datos sobre la Central Termoeléctrica de Río Turbio", Télam Política, September 4, 2015.
  10. "Río Turbio: al final, la usina solo funcionará a carbón," Clarin, Aug 11, 2016
  11. "La central a carbón de Río Turbio, paralizada y a la espera," La Nación, October 25, 2016
  12. El Gobierno decidió completar la central térmica de Río Turbio, La Nación, 5 Dec. 2016.
  13. Río Turbio: el Gobierno quiere terminar la central térmica, Big Bang! News, 8 Feb. 2017.
  14. Suman equipos para aumentar la producción en Yacimientos Carboníferos de Río Turbio, Télam, 9 May 2017.
  15. "Especial LN+: Río Turbio, una mina convertida en símbolo de la corrupción", La Nación, 10 Sep 2017.
  16. El Gobierno rescindió el contrato a Isolux en Río Turbio, Econo Journal, Mar. 5, 2018
  17. Río Turbio iniciará una producción de 360.000 toneladas anuales de carbón para exportar a Chile, Telam, Sep. 27, 2018
  18. Rio Turbio vuelve a exportar carbon despues de mas de 5 años Telam, Feb. 28, 2019
  19. 19.0 19.1 19.2 "BOLETIN OFICIAL REPUBLICA ARGENTINA - Decreto 473/2020". Ministerio de Desarrollo Productivo. May 14, 2020.
  20. Pérez Luque, Guillermo (May 15, 2020). "Nación transfirió a la empresa YCRT la obra de la Central Térmica". Ahora Calafate.
  21. "Por pedido de Aníbal Fernández, la termousina de Río Turbio pasó a la órbita de YCRT". Informe Político. May 15, 2020.
  22. "Usina de Río Turbio pasa de presupuesto cero a $3490 millones para reactivación de obra". OETEC. August 7, 2020.
  23. 23.0 23.1 "En Río Turbio, los negocios del macrismo lucen más negros que el carbón | Denuncian gastos millonarios en publicidad sin explicación". Página 12. November 22, 2020.
  24. "YCRT: la inversión real directa del Estado crecerá 1.069 por ciento". La Opinión Austral. September 27, 2020.
  25. 25.0 25.1 25.2 "One power plant starts operating in Argentina, foundations laid for another". MercoPress. Retrieved 2021-06-14.
  26. 26.0 26.1 "ESTUDIO DE IMPACTO AMBIENTAL: CENTRAL TERMOELÉCTRICA A CARBÓN RIO TURBIO, SANTA CRUZ" (PDF). Gobierno del Estado de Santa Cruz / Serman & Asociados S.A, Consultora.

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