AWARD OF EXCELLENCE / INTERNATIONAL SIEPAC Electrical Network
Juror Comments: "This project is an outstanding demonstration of Canadian engineering capabilities applied in a complex international context. It not only brings to light the technical excellence of Canadian engineering, but also shows...
Juror Comments: “This project is an outstanding demonstration of Canadian engineering capabilities applied in a complex international context. It not only brings to light the technical excellence of Canadian engineering, but also shows leading project management competencies and the generous transfer of technology and knowledge.”
The SIEPAC Project (Electrical Interconnection System for Central American Countries) is a high-voltage transmission and telecommunications network that extends over 1,800 kilometres, connecting six Central American countries: Guatemala, El Salvador, Honduras, Nicaragua, Costa Rica and Panama. Completed in 2012, the long-awaited investment improves electrical and communications services for over 30 million people.
SIEPAC’s owner, EPR (Empresa Propietaria de la Red), commissioned the Montreal-based consulting engineering firm Dessau for the design, turnkey tenders and supervision of equipment fabrication, detailed engineering, construction and commissioning of the project. In this central role, Dessau managed the project and supervised construction of the network, including 15 substations. In addition, the company worked with over 100 stakeholders — government and financial organizations, transmission companies, local contractors, etc. — and met unprecedented challenges.
SIEPAC has been operating since December 2012 with excellent results.
Dialogue and sharing
The company put in place the best possible multidisciplinary teams composed of 250 professionals who handled the complex technical, legislative and administrative situations and managed sensitive issues such as environmental protection.
The use of collaborative work methods optimized knowledge-sharing and accelerated decision-making. Seminars, for example, involved the project stakeholders, unlike the top-down approach often used in Central America. This approach helped achieve a significant first: the standardizing of designs and procedures throughout six Central American countries.
Acquiring property rights
The operation of an 1,800-km job site required high-calibre expertise and tools. Rights-of-way had to be acquired by each local electrical company since regional legislation did not grant such rights to SIEPAC. This crucial and delicate component had not been planned in detail by the project authorities, so Dessau had to serve as negotiator on behalf of the client. The route had to be modified several times due to refusals or exorbitant demands by landowners.
Dessau created a tailor-made, Internet-accessible project management system that facilitated the design, monitoring, procurement and construction activities.
Dessau also completely designed a cutting-edge telecommunications system complementing the high-voltage network to increase the quality and speed of telephone and Internet networks. Today, it is the most robust transborder network in the region.
Transnational standardization was key; thus, tender calls had to take into account very distinct and complex bureaucracies. At the same time, local contractors possessed varied and sometimes limited technical knowledge.
The region’s unique ecosystem is both a source of pride and a tourist attraction, and the project strictly met the environmental standards in effect in the six countries involved. The route was modified several times when to avoid sensitive ecosystems.
On numerous occasions and depending on the season, the project team faced hurricanes, heavy rainfall and extreme heat. Meanwhile, criminal gang activity in the region was another problem and ensuring workers’ safety was a priority for Dessau.
From a humanitarian standpoint, a mega-project that physically interconnects six countries through shared infrastructure is a revolutionary, peace-building endeavour in an area known for its tumultuous past riddled with conflicts and civil wars.
The SIEPAC project resulted in the construction of permanent road infrastructures, and has created business opportunities due to lower energy and telecommunications costs.
Awaited since the 1980s, SIEPAC provides efficient solutions to Central America’s energy problems. With its imminent connection to Mexico and Colombia, the system will soon become transcontinental. cce
EPR (Empresa Proprietaria
de la Red)
construction contracts management & works supervision:
Dessau International, Montreal, Chile, Colombia, Peru: (Homero Fuertes Mori, Eng.; Luis A. Nicho, Eng.; Michel Robitaille, Eng.; William Diaz, Eng.; Robinson Mauricio, Eng.; Miguel Camacho, Eng.; Carlos Irigoyen, Eng.)