Public utility Empresas Públicas de Medellín (EPM) has awarded CYS Consortium the construction of civil works for the commissioning of generation units 5 to 8 of the Ituango Hydroelectric Project (Hidroituango) in the department of Antioquia.
The consortium, which was awarded the project on October 11 after the conclusion of the public bid process, is composed of the companies LTD Sucursal Colombia, Schrader Camargo S.A.S., and Yellow River CO.
After being selected, the CYS Consortium will carry out a contract for civil works for a value of more than $252 million USD that is to be completed over 1,125 calendar days (or three years and four months).
EPM announced that, since the initial planning of Hidroituango, the implementation of the project has been planned in two stages, each composed of four energy generation units.
The first stage included units 1 to 4. Turbines 1 and 2 are already operating. For its part, per El Tiempo, the general manager of EPM, Jorge Andrés Carrillo, indicated that the progress of turbine 3 is 93.1% and 4 has advanced to 84.3%. This newly awarded second stage calls for the completion of units 5 to 8.
A Timeline of Troubled Contracting for Hidroituango
Questions have loomed over the contracting process of Hidroituango. In December, then-Medellín mayor Daniel Quintero, who abruptly resigned this month, demanded that the contractor that had been working on the dam for more than 10 years, CCC Ituango, renegotiate the existing contract. The organization refused that request and it led to a legal fight.
Additionally, the Ituango PC-SC Consortium previously made a bid for more than $200 million USD, despite complaints against it raised by independent consultants. In a detailed report by the engineering consulting firm Pöyry/Afry, it was found that delays in finishing Hidroituango and the commissioning of the eight turbines, named before in the two stages of the project, would likely create structural risk for the dam due to the stress prompted by the Cauca river flow going over the spillway or through bypass tunnels instead of through the generation turbines, as it would be meant to be.
More recently, suspicions emerged around the project due to the unclear actions of Quintero, who actively participated in the building process as chairman of the board of city-owned EPM during his term.
In August 26, 2022, the home services company lowered the standard requirements necessary for the project at the behest of the Chinese Yellow River CO firm, after it alleged that there were not enough Colombian firms with experience on the hydroelectric dams who were also interested in undertaking the Hidroituango project.
“We have found an alternative to partner with a local company that is interested and has extensive experience in this type of work,” stated Yellow River CO in a letter sent to EPM, as reported by El Colombiano. “However, in order to comply with the particular conditions, it is necessary for EPM to reconsider one of the following proposals, to which the Colombian participant must provide the conditions of experience.”
Subsequently, it became known that capable local companies were loath to get involved in the project after Quintero rejected CCC Ituango’s contract to continue operations. In response, this company refused to continue after its initial contract phase was completed.
EPM’s decision of changing the standard requirements for the project was strongly criticized by the Colombian Chamber of Infrastructure. This association, made up of construction businessmen, accused the city company of tailoring the requirements in order to make it easier for a specific firm to win the bid. In Colombia, this supposed malpractice in contracting is known as “tailor sheets”.
In the end, that tender was declared void in 2022.
Photo: Hidroituango (Credit: EPM)