The Société de Gestion de l’Energie de Manantali (SOGEM) is looking for an independent operator to run and maintain the Manantali dam and power plant on the Senegal river in Mali, Africa. The first generating units of the power project are scheduled for commissioning in April 2001.

SOGEM, whose members are from Mali, Mauritania and Senegal, is currently operating the dam but will give way to a new operator who will be nominated by the end of 2000. Following an international call for bids to assist SOGEM in the selection of a new operator, a group of Swiss consultants (led by Stucky Consulting Engineers and comprising electrowatt Engineering and utility EOS) became involved.

Roger Gaillard from Stucky Consulting Engineers explained why the project, which is funded by the World Bank and other international donors, may need an independent operator. ‘It is likely that an independent operator has been called for because these lenders would like to see more experienced people operate the dam if financial support from the international community is to continue,’ he said.

After pre-qualification, three potential operators will be shortlisted in accordance with World Bank guidelines.

The Manantali dam was completed in 1988 and its hydro plant is set to generate power which will be distributed to the three Senegal river riparian countries, through a 225kV voltage system of overhead lines totalling more than 1300km. The plant will house 5x40MW units which are currently under construction. The contract for the units was awarded following an international call for bids. ABB is supplying the generators and Sulzer Hydro is supplying the turbines.

Since the inception of the hydro power component of the Manantali dam, the project has been the subject of much debate over the social and environmental impacts of hydro development in the Senegal basin. According to Gaillard, the impacts of the dam were considered by the World Bank and other donors before the dam was constructed.

He said: ‘The donors are very sensitive to these issues but approaches have changed. There is a need for a follow-up investigation on the environmental impacts of power generation.’