Río Turbio power station

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Río Turbio power station (Central Térmica Río Turbio) is an operating power station of at least 120-megawatts (MW) in Río Turbio coal mine, Güer Aike, Santa Cruz, Argentina with multiple units, some of which are not currently operating. It is also known as 14 Mineros power station, Central Termoeléctrica 14 Mineros.


Table 1: Project-level location details

Plant name Location Coordinates (WGS 84)
Río Turbio power station Río Turbio coal mine, Güer Aike, Santa Cruz, Argentina -51.546015, -72.231256 (exact)

The map below shows the exact location of the power station.

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Unit-level coordinates (WGS 84):

  • Unit 1, Unit 2: -51.546015, -72.231256

Project Details

Table 2: Unit-level details

Unit name Status Fuel(s) Capacity (MW) Technology Start year
Unit 1 operating coal: bituminous 120 subcritical 2022
Unit 2 construction coal: bituminous 120 subcritical 2023 (planned)

Table 3: Unit-level ownership and operator details

Unit name Owner Parent
Unit 1 Yacimientos Carboníferos de Río Turbio SA [100%] Yacimientos Carboníferos de Río Turbio SA [100.0%]
Unit 2 Yacimientos Carboníferos de Río Turbio SA [100%] Yacimientos Carboníferos de Río Turbio SA [100.0%]

Project-level coal details

  • Coal source(s): Río Turbio coal mine


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 consists of two 120 MW-each units.[1]

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.[2] 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 expected to have a two-year supply of coal stockpiled in time for the plant's opening. Upon going online, it was to be Argentina's first 100% coal-fired power plant.[3]

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.[4] 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.[5]

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.[6]

False starts and logistical challenges

Unit 1 of the Río Turbio plant was briefly brought online in August 2015[7] and officially inaugurated by Argentine president Cristina Kirchner during her campaign for re-election in September 2015.[8] 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.[9] 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.[10]

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 ultimated decided to stick with coal. Reports at the time indicated that completion of unit 2 had been delayed by financial difficulties, including nonpayment of workers.[11]

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.[12]

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.[13] However, Isolux Corsán went bankrupt shortly thereafter, prompting the Argentine government to say that it would finish the project itself if necessary.[14] In May 2017, the state mining company announced plans to increase the mine's capacity, although the labor union was opposed to the plans.[15]

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 remained 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 had 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.[16]

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.[17] 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.[18] In February 2019 the mine resumed exporting coal for the first time since 2013.[19]

New life for the project

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.[9]

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.[20] 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[21], including plans to fund renewed construction of Unit 2 with income from Unit 1.[22]

Government funding for the Río Turbio power station, which had been virtually eliminated under Macri's presidency, was revived in 2020.[23] 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.[24] YCRT representatives estimated that Unit 1 could begin operations as early as February 2021, subject to limitations imposed by the coronavirus pandemic.[25]

In April 2021, YCRT announced that an older 21 MW plant on the Río Turbio site had been rehabilitated to generate electricity, sending 4.5 MW to the National Interconnected System. According to the company, efforts to revive Río Turbio's 240 MW power project were still underway.[26][27][28]

Testing and start-up of commercial operations

In March 2022, YCRT announced that efforts to revive Río Turbio's 120 MW Unit 1 were 98% complete, and that steam blow tests would take place in mid-April.[29] In May 2022, YCRT confirmed that the tests had been successfully concluded and that commercial operations were expected to resume shortly.[30][31]

In June 2022, YCRT announced that the plant would officially be renamed Central Termoeléctrica 14 Mineros[32], to honor a group of 14 miners who perished in an accident at the nearby Río Turbio coal mine in 2004.[33]

In July 2022, YCRT announced that Unit 1 had begun commercial operations on a limited basis. Plans called for the plant to generate 30 to 40 MW for a three-month test period, supplying electricity to customers primarily in Santa Cruz province. According to YCRT, Unit 1 was expected to begin generating at its full 120 MW capacity upon completion of the test period, while Unit 2 was scheduled to begin operating by late 2023.[34]

In November 2022, YCRT announced that Unit 1 had been connected to the national grid, with output set to rise from 40 MW to 60 or 70 MW; Unit 2 remained on schedule for construction in 2023.[35]

As of January 2023, YCRT was actively hiring engineers to work at the plant; a company press release continued to describe Río Turbio as a 240 MW power station, implying that plans for commissioning the second unit were still on track.[36]

In May 2023, YCRT's newly appointed controller was quoted on the radio having announced, "Fortunately we have a lot of coal, which we have to produce, generate energy and export [...]" [37]

As of June 2023, the YCRT company website indicated that Unit 2 (the "second module") was still under construction.[38] In August 2023, news coverage of a YCRT press conference stated that Unit 2 was operational, although the YCRT website still indicated that the unit was under construction.[39]

Reporting in late September and early October 2023 announced that a public hearing would be held in October, during which the Ministry of the Environment was to present its technical opinion of the Environmental Impact Assessment for the Río Turbio power station.[40][41]

Status uncertainty amid the looming possibility of privatization (2023-2024)

Reporting in December 2023 of the possible privatization of YCRT and the impact of Argentina's new government on the company did not mention construction progress or completion of Unit 2.[42][43]

In January 2024, it was reported that a YCRT proposal for the restructuring of the Río Turbio power station had failed to include essential technical details of the power station's present status.[44] The proposal, which was submitted to the national government as an appeal for the power station not to be privatized, lacked seemingly standard information about the technical state and operational status of both Units 1 and 2. The limited availability of information on the status of both units appeared to be an ongoing issue in news reporting in early 2024.[45]

Discussion of privatizing the Río Turbio power station continued throughout the early months of 2024, while workers continued to defend YCRT and refute claims of its disfunction.[46][47][48] In one January 2024 statement, the workers claimed that the company and its power station maintained the capacity to provide 240 MW of power to the national network, but the actual operative statuses of the units remained unclear.[46]

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.[9]

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.[24]

As of July 2022, YCRT reportedly continued to operate at a huge deficit, generating only 1% of the income necessary to maintain its operations and depending on Argentine government subsidies for the remainder.[49]

In February 2023, it was reported that the project had cost between 2 and 3 times the amount which was originally budgeted for its construction, and Unit 2 had still not been completed. [50]

Articles and Resources


  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.{{cite web}}: CS1 maint: url-status (link)
  2. Marcela Valente, "ARGENTINA: Adding More Coal to the Fire," IPS, May 10, 2010.
  3. "Argentina's First 100% Coal-fired Plant Nears Completion". Coal Age. March 28, 2014.{{cite web}}: CS1 maint: url-status (link)
  4. "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.
  5. "Río Turbio triplicó su personal pero produce menos carbón", Clarín, October 19, 2014.
  6. "Río Turbio: construyen una central a carbón, pero funcionará con gas". La Nación. May 2, 2015.{{cite web}}: CS1 maint: url-status (link)
  7. "Histórico: La central térmica de Río Turbio se unió a la Red Nacional", Minuto Uno, August 20, 2015.
  8. "Cristina inaugura parte de la central Termoeléctrico de Río Turbio", La Nación, September 4, 2015.
  9. 9.0 9.1 9.2 "Aníbal Fernández gana poder: manejará también la obra de la Usina de Río Turbio investigada por sobreprecios". Clarín. May 15, 2020.
  10. "Cristina desmintió una nota de Clarín y aclaró datos sobre la Central Termoeléctrica de Río Turbio", Télam Política, September 4, 2015.
  11. "Río Turbio: al final, la usina solo funcionará a carbón," Clarin, Aug 11, 2016
  12. "La central a carbón de Río Turbio, paralizada y a la espera," La Nación, October 25, 2016
  13. El Gobierno decidió completar la central térmica de Río Turbio, La Nación, 5 Dec. 2016.
  14. Río Turbio: el Gobierno quiere terminar la central térmica, Big Bang! News, 8 Feb. 2017.
  15. Suman equipos para aumentar la producción en Yacimientos Carboníferos de Río Turbio, Télam, 9 May 2017.
  16. "Especial LN+: Río Turbio, una mina convertida en símbolo de la corrupción", La Nación, 10 Sep 2017.
  17. El Gobierno rescindió el contrato a Isolux en Río Turbio, Econo Journal, Mar. 5, 2018
  18. Río Turbio iniciará una producción de 360.000 toneladas anuales de carbón para exportar a Chile, Telam, Sep. 27, 2018
  19. Rio Turbio vuelve a exportar carbon despues de mas de 5 años Telam, Feb. 28, 2019
  20. "BOLETIN OFICIAL REPUBLICA ARGENTINA - Decreto 473/2020". Ministerio de Desarrollo Productivo. May 14, 2020.
  21. Pérez Luque, Guillermo (May 15, 2020). "Nación transfirió a la empresa YCRT la obra de la Central Térmica". Ahora Calafate.
  22. "Por pedido de Aníbal Fernández, la termousina de Río Turbio pasó a la órbita de YCRT". Informe Político. May 15, 2020.{{cite web}}: CS1 maint: url-status (link)
  23. "Usina de Río Turbio pasa de presupuesto cero a $3490 millones para reactivación de obra". OETEC. August 7, 2020.{{cite web}}: CS1 maint: url-status (link)
  24. 24.0 24.1 "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.{{cite web}}: CS1 maint: url-status (link)
  25. "YCRT: la inversión real directa del Estado crecerá 1.069 por ciento". La Opinión Austral. September 27, 2020.{{cite web}}: CS1 maint: url-status (link)
  26. "One power plant starts operating in Argentina, foundations laid for another". MercoPress. Retrieved 2021-06-14.
  27. "Hito nacional en YCRT: Desde el 31 de marzo a las 8 mañana estamos entregando energía al interconectado". YCRT. April 1, 2021.
  28. "MW de Río Turbio al SIN: ¿Una mentira de patas cortas?". EnerNews. April 5, 2021.{{cite web}}: CS1 maint: url-status (link)
  29. "Cuenca Carbonífera | YCRT anunció la prueba del soplado de vapor en la usina termoeléctrica de 240 MW". TiempoSur. March 24, 2022. Retrieved 2022-06-22.{{cite web}}: CS1 maint: url-status (link)
  30. "Se completo con éxito la Prueba de Soplado de la Central Termoeléctrica 120MW". TeimpoSur. May 2, 2022.{{cite web}}: CS1 maint: url-status (link)
  31. "YCRT se prepara para terminar la termoeléctrica y empezar a generar energía". TiempoSur. April 24, 2022.{{cite web}}: CS1 maint: url-status (link)
  32. "La Central Termoeléctrica de YCRT se llamará "14 Mineros"". YCRT. June 14, 2022.
  33. "Un infierno bajo tierra: cómo fue la tragedia de los 14 mineros de Río Turbio". A24. June 16, 2021.
  34. "La Central Termoeléctrica Río Turbio ya aporta energía al Interconectado". YCRT. July 23, 2022.
  35. "La termousina ya genera energía para la Argentina". BAE Negocios. November 12, 2022.
  36. "YCRT busca Ingenieros para trabajar en la Central Termoeléctrica". YCRT. January 26, 2023.
  37. Daniel Peralta en Radio Nacional Rio Turbio YCRT, May 19, 2023
  38. CARBÓN Y ENERGÍA PARA EL PAÍS YCRT, Accessed: June 2023
  39. YCRT puso en marcha el primer módulo de la Central Térmica, OPI Santa Cruz, August 17, 2023
  40. Habrá audiencia pública por la Termousina de Río Turbio, OPI Santa Cruz, September 29, 2023
  41. Audiencia Pública por la Central Termoeléctrica 14 Mineros 240MW, YCRT, September 27, 2023
  42. Peralta dijo que la posible privatización de YCRT sería un error histórico, La Opinion Austral, December 5, 2023
  43. Thierry Decoud es el nuevo interventor de YCRT, El Pinguino, December 24, 2023
  44. Conozca la propuesta que le entregó el gobernador Vidal al Presidente Milei sobre la reactivación de YCRT y las omisiones claves que no lo hacen viable, January 10, 2024
  45. Mineral de Río Turbio, la empresa que Milei quiere privatizar, pero que Santa Cruz pretende retener, La Prensa Austral, January 14, 2024
  46. 46.0 46.1 ATE Río Turbio: ’No somos casta. Somos soberanía y energía para Argentina’, CTA, January 5, 2024
  47. Nueva movilización en apoyo a YCRT y estamentos estatales en la Cuenca Carbonífera, Asociación Trabajadores del Estado, April 3, 2024
  48. Alerta por la privatización de la Central Termoeléctrica de Río Turbio, El Diario, March 2, 2024
  49. "El gobierno destinará este año casi US$ 100 millones para cubrir el déficit de la empresa estatal Yacimientos Río Turbio pese a que no produce carbón". Econojournal. July 5, 2022.{{cite web}}: CS1 maint: url-status (link)
  50. Con un déficit de 84%, la minera estatal Río Turbio tiene 2.200 empleados que cobran un promedio de 610.000 pesos Clarín.' February 23, 2023

Additional data

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