Power from the jungle

26 June 2015

When completed, the Coca Codo Sinclair hydroelectric facility will supply almost half of Ecuador’s energy. LafargeHolcim Ecuador is successfully supplying this prestigious project - one of the largest of its kind in Latin America.


The Coca River in Ecuador runs through the remote jungles of the western Amazon basin. A large and majestic waterway, the river has long drawn interest from engineers for its energy generation potential. In 2007, this potential began to be realized when the country’s government made construction of a hydroelectric facility on the river the centerpiece of its energy policy.

Supply up to 44 percent of the country’s energy needs

The Coca Codo Sinclair Project, as it is known, is the largest hydroelectric project in Ecuador’s history and one of the largest ever in Latin America. When completed in 2015, it is expected to supply 44 percent of the country’s energy needs. This will go a long way towards meeting the government’s policy goals, which include replacing thermoelectric energy from fossil fuels with renewable energy and becoming energy self-sufficient.

Building Coca Codo requires large amounts of concrete. Among other things, project plans call for a concrete dam and water intake facility on the river, as well as an almost 25 kilometer long concrete lined tunnel to transport the water to the power station. Considering these volumes, LafargeHolcim Ecuador knew from the outset that the project had great potential. But it also knew it would face stiff competition on the bid.

The right partner

When choosing a cement supplier, the project team had two main concerns. One was the ability to deliver the necessary amounts consistently and on time. The other was the quality of the cement. Not only did it have to be strong, but due to the chemical makeup of the available aggregates there were also worries about an alkali-silica reaction (ASR). ASR can be very serious, potentially leading to dangerous cracks over time. It was therefore imperative when producing the concrete to use cement with a proven ability to neutralize this reaction.

Considering that the Coca River is located in the middle of the jungle, there were major logistics challenges as well. Planners needed to be confident that the supplier would be in a position to ensure that materials would always reach the jobsite in the right amounts and on schedule.

Its ability to meet these challenges and add value to the project through the availability and quality of its products, its customer service focus, and the expertise of its staff all led to LafargeHolcim Ecuador being selected as the main supplier for this project. LafargeHolcim Ecuador put together a cross-discipline team comprised of commercial, technical, and financial experts from the company, as well as experts from LafargeHolcim Technical Services (HTS). It also worked closely with the government, the designer, and Sinohydro, the Chinese contractor, to carry out a thorough project evaluation. This included close study of the available aggregates, its own cement products, and the project’s logistics needs.

Cement that does not promote ASR

With its high performance products, LafargeHolcim Ecuador was able to meet the strength requirements and provide a cement that does not promote ASR. On the logistics side, LafargeHolcim Ecuador worked with the planners to understand the volume needs of the project in as much detail as possible, and develop a transportation plan. This included designing and building a warehouse onsite with enough capacity to ensure the project would have access to sufficient product at all times. Internally, LafargeHolcim Ecuador also worked to ensure it could supply the necessary volumes.

Work has been ongoing for two years now, and all stakeholders are happy with progress. This has helped LafargeHolcim Ecuador with follow-on work, allowing them to improve on their already good relationships with customers in Ecuador and leading to involvement in four more concrete dam projects in the country.