The Guri Dam And The Electricity Problem In Venezuela

March 13, 2016


People in Caracas were rightly encouraged last week when the city got some rain. Stories about the Guri Dam reaching critical level have been scaring people for the last two weeks. Unfortunately, as you can see in the rain map above from Monday March 14th. at 1 AM, the rain that poured over the city is nowhere to be seen now. In fact, that rain seemed to come from the Caribbean and did not make a dent on Guri Dam, which the map notes. There is some rainy activity south of the dam in Amazonas state, but it is too far, while it is hopeful to see some.

The question is how bad the problem is or may become. To explain this, I resort to slides I showed in 2010 when a similar threat was present.

Reportedly, the level of the dam is now at 247.5 meters. Within this range, each day without rain implies a drop of 30 cm today, but will accelerate as it drops. The minimum level at which the dam may operate is 240 m. as seeing in the following slide:


What the slide shows is that the minimum level of operation occurs below 240 meters. Below this level, a number of problems begin to take place in which the turbines do not operate well (Cavitation and turbulence). According to the slide, below this level, eight of the turbines (some of which, in red, are not operational, will not work, taking out 5,600 MW of power out of the country´s network. This is about half what Guri can produce and Guri provides 60% of the power in the country. Thus, at this level, we are talking about losing 30% of the power of the country and , of course, the water level could keep dropping.

A more detailed plot of the problems is shown in the following plot (Both plots are official ones from Government’s electrical institutions):


As you can see, slightly below 240 meters, vortices will form and the turbines will have to be stopped. We are talking about 9 meters below current level.

Well, we are close, but the drought will have to last some 46 days, according to predictions made in this post in the comments by a reader in 2010.

This means that we are talking about end of April before in the critical area. Thus, while we have reasons to be concerned, the critical level is still far from where we are, as rains seem to be beginning to appear in the south of Venezuela. The weather is unpredictable, but a catastrophe is still far away and may not happen. Will keep you informed.

Graph added:

Someone sent me this plot. The slope at which it drops is 12-13 cm per day, which is a positive as it gives more time (70 days to be more precise) :


67 Responses to “The Guri Dam And The Electricity Problem In Venezuela”

  1. Rene Says:

    Corpoelec says 242.89 April 13th, seems to be slowing down the descent to 12 cm per day. That gives 24 days more until 240, and it´s raining down south.

  2. Rene Says:

    31 de marzo 244.55, going down at 19.5 cm per day in the last 2 days..

  3. .5mt Says:

    Off Topic: Anyone able to get to Caracas Chronicles?

    • IslandCanuck Says:

      No problems from Isla Margarita (ABA) but I’m also using Google DNS.
      They had some connectivity problems over the weekend.

  4. IslandCanuck Says:

    I would estimate that the level is at or below the 245 level by today.
    If my estimate is correct we will be below the 244 level in the next 5 to 6 days which is in line with the predictions of early April.

    The employees union of Corpolec admits that rationing has now begun.

    I’ve stocked up on candles & empty wine bottles (a lot of work emptying those bottles).
    Reminds me of the 60s.

    Hope everyone has lots of canned foods.

  5. Dr. Faustus Says:

    So, not only has ‘Chavista engineering’ destroyed the Guri dam, it now appears that they know nothing about running oil terminals either. Oil tankers are now backed-up from here to Switzerland (I know, I know) because of lack of maintenance. Everything is falling apart at the oil loading docks.
    “”Of 11 marine loading arms, only four are currently working. This situation has been worsening in the last three weeks. Loading time has extended to more than four days from an average of 40 hours,” Eudis Girot, an oil union leader, told Reuters.”

  6. Francisco Says:

    CHIAMOOOO escribe mas a menudo valeeeeeeeeee

  7. Daveed Says:

    Guri’s #1 unit is reportedly now offline, seems like the gov’t is going to try to cut back electricity production to avoid a full scale shutdown. On twitter search the hashtag #SINLUZ to get an idea of where the blackouts are hitting.

  8. Ira Says:

    Fuck the dam:

    I have never witnessed such a stupid, meaningless debacle as today’s Obama-Castro news conference.

    Obama was totally off his game, and totally clueless. It was shameful.

    Raul is simply senile. A dope. Incapable. But it was nice to at least witness this in person.

    • m_astera Says:


      I would much rather be considered a Jeffersonian liberal than what passes today as a conservative. God forbid. Creepiest most selfish people on Earth. My disgust for them doesn’t translate into words. I would say all the bad actors in Venezuela would qualify as American conservatives. Steal all you can, and lie about it.

      But anyway, missed the show. Got a link?

    • m_astera Says:

      I’m not poking this at you, just letting off steam.

  9. Daveed Says:

    Here is a chart of an extrapolation using the latest data:

  10. Soozzee Says:

    Perhaps there should be some thought given to a design like US Niagara Falls dam. When demand is low turbines power pumps that raise the outflow back up into storage.

  11. M Rubio Says:

    “This seems strange to me. They measure the level of the Guri reservoir at meters above sea level? Seems to me it should be measured at meters above the bottom of the reservoir.”

    Sea level is relatively fixed and used as a point of reference globally. The bottom of the reservoir is not fixed as depth varies with location and even in a given location the depth will change over time via silting.

  12. IslandCanuck Says:

    Al 17 de marzo de 2016:
    246,53 m.s.n.m.

    • m_astera Says:

      This seems strange to me. They measure the level of the Guri reservoir at meters above sea level? Seems to me it should be measured at meters above the bottom of the reservoir.

      Also, I hear through the grapevine that the reservoir that sends water to Isla Margarita is dry. And I hear that the only source of water on the island is from wells filling tanker trucks. Further I hear that people have been murdered for drilling their own wells (perhaps because they weren’t working through the water mafia?).

      From the letters the condo manager at my place sends out, they can’t even get a truck to deliver water, and it seems there is no water coming from the city water supply. Assuming all of the above is true, how long will people even be able to live on Margarita?

      All this is something I foresaw when I first moved to Margarita in 2006. I checked out the available local wells and supply. The best known are at Fuente Duenos just above San Juan Bautista. There is also a source near Rinconada. But really there are many good well sites on the East side of Margarita. The West side has groundwater but it is mostly saline.

      This should be easy stuff. A well point that can be driven in a day with a sledgehammer sells for around $60 on Amazon. 1 1/4″ pipe is available on Margarita last I knew.

      • Roger Says:

        Don’t make this a Bolivarian thing. I spent half of the early 90’s working out of Porlamar and water was always a problem. I would stay at Hotel Continental and others and the water would run out because they could not pay for the water truck or the driver took the week off. Nothing new, just the usual Crillio Engineering!

      • m_astera Says:

        I’m not making it Bolivarian. Lived there for nine years. At best we got water two days per week for eight hours. I was told the water is not coming from the mainland. None.

    • Dr. Faustus Says:

      246.53 on March 17th? They ain’t gonna make it. In 4 weeks there will be all out panic.

  13. I can’t help myself: an article about Obama’s visit to Cuba

    I wouldn’t expect much help from outside. It’s more likely they’ll whine a bit and then sit down at the table to see what’s available. Venezuelans or their freedom don’t matter. And don’t take it personal, it’s just business.

  14. John Cider Says:

    Why can’t Venezuela build electrical power plants that burn natural gas?

    • Because the government is corrupt and incompetent, has other priorities, such as sending money to the colonial overlords in Cuba (see today’s Runrunes which discusses how even today Maduro and Arreaza use medicine purchases to direct cash flow to Castro).

      Building modular 600 MW combined cycle turbine plants isn’t that complicated. For this regime, it’s like a moon shot.

    • Ira Says:

      Why can’t they make toilet paper?

      Or raise chickens?

      Venezuela did all of these miraculous things before Chavez.

    • M Rubio Says:

      Good question about burning natural gas to generate electricity. I’ve got a good buddy who works for PDVSA in Furrial field. It’s been under a gas-flood program for years and as best I can tell, the majority of the gas isn’t recycled but burned instead. I’d love to know how many millions of cubic feet per day are flared. I’m many many miles from that field but the night sky is illuminated by the flaring.

      What a huge waste of fossil fuels.

      And then, just to top it off, the guy who delivers gas to the pueblo in canisters claims that most of it originates in Colombia. I don’t know if that’s true or not, but paying the Colombians in dollars to refill canisters and then shipping them all over the country while our own gas supply is flared sounds about par for the course for this government.

    • Bill Says:

      Venezuela purchased several Gas Turbine Generator sets from Derwick associates through the multi Billion dollar scam that has been pointed out several times. The problem is the equipment was delivered but never installed. There are 2 Rolls-Royce Trent turbines under shelter in Ciudad Ojeda for the last 5 years. The graft of selling the equipment was one thing but the biggest graft is they still are not installed.

  15. moctavio Says:

    I dont think the Chinese were going to lend them anything even before the tweet. My understanding is other transactions like that with Rosfnet will go thru the National Assembly and they will be approved.

  16. Rafael Hidalgo-Aponte Says:

    Other experts such as Miguel Lara – more trustworthy than the current CORPOELEC- have estimated the minimal operational level in 244 msnm. Below this level they consider the operation is too risky and may lead to damages on the turbines. He quotes a 2003 EDELCA’s technical report that recommended NOT to operate at 240 msnm.

    At the current rate, we will reach 244 msnm in twenty five days or so …

  17. Lee Kuan Yew Says:

    The Gods are obviously pissed at Chavismo. Zeus evidently decided to stop the rains, so that “el pueblo” gets even more upset and overthrows the criminal regime. (That or it’s another sinister sabotage plot from El Imperio)

    If the Derwisck Bolichicos had not stolen ONE BILLION US$ with their filthy power plant deals, delivering used, worthless units as if they were new, and they had used that money for real plants, and maintenance of the grid’s infrastructure, there would be no electricity problems in Vzla.

    As everything in Kleptozuela, it’s more about massive, galactic corruption than “incompetence” or acts of God.

  18. Charlie Says:

    The levels I have ( ) for the last few days are:

    10 de marzo de 2016: 247,56 m.s.n.m.
    09 de marzo de 2016: 247,70 m.s.n.m.
    08 de marzo de 2016: 247,85 m.s.n.m.
    07 de marzo de 2016: 248,02 m.s.n.m.

    That’s a drop of ~15 cm/d; which is 5 times the 30 mm shown above. If that rate were maintained, then the 240m level would be reached in 48 days — actually a few days less as the rate of level drop increases.

    • moctavio Says:

      In what the reader calculated he estimated 30 cm. per day at these levels. (sorry, I meant 30 cm, not mm) Dont understand the difference, but this is good news as it would take even longer.

      • Charlie Says:

        At 30 cm/day it would only take ~23-25 days; which is nothing. At 15cm/day 46-50 days; which brings us to May 1st. Now if, as Rubio above says, rains don’t start until the end of May or June, then we’re really screwed.

        • Daveed Says:

          Even with rains typically starting late April, the minimum tends to be reached around May 10(as I recall.)

  19. M Rubio Says:

    And a note of caution to those who use the radar website to get an idea of rainfall in the área. I’ve used it for years with my hay baling and crop planting operations and often what’s displayed as a significant rainfall event in a given area turns out to be nothing more than a sprinkle with very heavy cloud cover.

  20. M Rubio Says:

    Don’t know about the Guri area in particular, but for the last 6-8 years here (on border between Monagas and Anzoetigue) significant rainfall doesn’t come until the end of May or early June……and sometimes not even until the end of June. The few lakes in this area are drying up rapidly whereas before they were refilled during each “winter”.

    Fortunately for my pueblo, we were taken off the main grid a couple of years ago and hooked into a PDVSA substation not too far from here. Blackouts and shortages were cut by about 90%.

    It’s about the only positive news we’ve had in those 2 years. Our water supply, which had been provided by a 60 inch line that runs from a reservoir above Mundo Nuevo to Maturín, has been out of service since August of 2012 when the station in the mountains was damaged by flooding. Something like 20 kilometers of the 60 inch line was piled up like spaguetti on a plate. They claim they’re working to repair it but I’ll believe it when I see it. I drilled my own well here at the house. Without it we’d be SOL.

  21. Not Criminally Responsible Says:

    I tried to post a comment with different numbers for the rate of water loss in the Guri reservoir. It never appeared. Here’s the part I wanted to draw attention to:

    “Guri’s water level presently is falling by over three meters every 30 days and the seasonal dry period has not started yet,” the Corpoelec official tells Argus.

    The article was posted on Argus Media on 10 Feb 2016.

  22. Daveed Says:

    Do we know how many of the generation plants mentioned in this blog in 2010 (planta centro, ezequiel zamora, cabrutica, etc) got built and are operational?

  23. Dave Barnes Says:

    Maybe the rains would come if VZ would recognize Guyana’s border.

  24. Not Criminally Responsible Says:

    “Guri’s water level presently is falling by over three meters every 30 days and the seasonal dry period has not started yet,” the Corpoelec official tells Argus.

    I pulled the above from the following webpage:

    Also, perhaps the following site can lead to more information:

  25. They will stretch the water reserve by rationing electricity. This is why they are giving one week’s vacation to government workers. I bet they’ll forbid air conditioning, or have thermostats raised to 28 degrees, which will cause riots in Maracaibo.

  26. Rafael Says:

    Hi Miguel, based on CORPOELEC’s own press releases, the level was 249 msnm on 29/02 and then of 248.03 msnm on 9/03. That is almost 1 m in nine days, or 110 mm per day. That is consistent with the 247.56 msnm unofficially reported on 12/03. How did you calculate the 30mm per day figure?
    Am I missing something?

  27. IslandCanuck Says:

    Motta Domínguiez alerta sobre el nivel “crítico” en el que se encuentra el Guri
    De acuerdo con información del ministro, el nivel de la represa se ubica en 247,56 metros sobre el nivel del mar, lo que significa que está a poco más de tres metros del inicio de la zona crítica (244 metros sobre el nivel del mar).

  28. moctavio Says:

    The turbnesin red were not operational in 2010, it is not known if they are back in the air. That was the reason for shutting down Venalum and part of Idor, given that these remain down, I suspect that they never came online. Not all of them came off due to cavitation, some need maintainance evety so many years. Yes, the amount of power that will go offline is larger than 30% but even 30% of the total would be dramatic. Its a race against time.

    • TV Says:

      Back in the air … a great tongue-in-cheek, bravo 🙂

      I think you made an error with numbers somewhere. If the dam has 9 meters of relatively normal operations left, and the drop of water is 6 mm/day, it has 1500 days of operations left, not 46. That is consistent with a drop of approximately 195 mm/day, or about 8 mm/h.

  29. Ira Says:

    I thought cavitation already damaged some of the turbines several years ago, and they weren’t replaced. That the dam has been operating at reduced capacity since then. And even at maximum water level, it can’t generate the power it once did.

    • Artemisa Says:

      You’re right. The issue was a hot topic for Edelca’s board in 2002 when the reservoir hit records low for the first time. Although the efficiency negatively affected around 10 units (taking around 2 to 5% efficiency in design) the repairs were needed to stop collateral damage (vibration). In order to repair cavitation holes in such a huge mass of steel (blades) and also fix concrete loss and cracks in the intake each unit has to stop for at least a year. As of 2006 only two units were repaired. I think the biggest mistake has been to use Guri to regulate ups and downs on the demand while thermal plants were off. Guri was designed to do the opposite. For most politicians there’s nothing bad to turn on and off a turbine like it was a light bulb.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: