- Nile energy project is set to go with the flow -

Many people imagine Sudan to be a country made up of endless stretches of arid desert under clear blue skies. While this is not necessarily an inaccurate picture, the country is nonetheless blessed with substantial water resources which could be used to generate hydro-electric power. Although foreign investors have been cautious about becoming involved in costly hydroelectric projects, there is little doubt that business opportunities exist in the country.

The minister of industry and investment, Abdel Halim Ismail Al-Mutaafi, recently announced that Sudan was negotiating with the Malaysian government concerning a proposed $700 million hydroelectricity project to be built on the River Nile. The hydroproject, north of Khartoum, has a projected generating capacity of 2,000MW and will also help with irrigation. The total potential for hydroelectricity in Sudan is substantial.

The managing director of Sudan's National Electricity Corporation (NEC), Makkawi Awad, reckons that the waterways running from the south to the north of the country contain hydroelectricity potential of around 9,000MW. "There are so many places for building dams along the Nile," adds energy and mining minister Awad Ahmed alJaz. The Current capacity: Sudan's waterways hold significant possibilities for hydroelectricity government clearly wants to go ahead with new hydroelectricity schemes, but first it must find partners to carry these projects through. "A number of projects are being studied, designed and presented to companies, which are now looking at our data to see if they can go through with these projects," says the minister.

Measures needed to protect existing facilities from the extreme climate

As well as the Malaysian plan, current attention focuses on several large dam projects with massive capacities totalling about 2,000MW, some of them designed by Russian companies. "The designs are finished and we are looking for a way to finance them," says Mr Al-Jaz. It remains to be seen whether the Chinese become involved in hydroelectricity projects. Chinese partners are already involved in crude oil production and oil refining in Sudan, and are keen to forge close economic ties between the two countries.

Mr Al-Jaz says that European countries are also showing renewed interest in the energy sector. Aside from the huge projects put forward by the planners and engineers, several smaller pieces of work have still to be carried out if Sudan's hydroelectricity sector is to become more efficient. Measures must be taken to ensure that existing facilities are protected from the extreme climate. Take the example of the Rosairis hydroelectric station on the River Nile. While the project was built to a design capacity of 280MW, officials say that actual output from the dam drops dramatically as water levels fall between late winter and early summer. At times, electricity production slumps to 150MW or even 100MW. Even worse, when water levels rise to their highest annual levels at Rosairis, silt and debris often clog up the dam's turbines.