(EnergyAsia, May 18 2011, Wednesday) — Australia’s Origin Energy Limited said it has acquired a 40% interest in Energía Andina SA (EASA), Chile’s leading geothermal exploration company.

Origin acquired its stake from Empresa Nacional del Petróleo (ENAP) following a competitive bidding process run by ENAP. Antofagasta Minerals SA (AMSA) retains its majority 60% stake.

Founded in 2008, EASA has established a portfolio of eight geothermal exploration projects in the northern and central regions of Chile, covering a total of 553,400 hectares.

Karen Moses, Origin’s executive director for finance and strategy, said:

Chile is located on the Pacific Ring of Fire and has considerable prospective geothermal hot spots, estimated to make up 60% of the total Latin American geothermal resources. Preliminary assessment of the geothermal potential of Chile indicates a possible 16,000 MW of resource available.

“This investment in EASA supports our pursuit of geothermal opportunities in growing markets offshore and provides us with an established presence in the Chilean market.

“It is our view that geothermal can provide large scale renewable base load energy and Chile has significant potential from a resource and growing local demand perspective.”

Jose Manuel Soffia, Energia Andina’s CEO, said:

“EASA’s long-term objective is to become a leading geothermal exploration and development company in Chile, taking advantage of the strong local demand for cleaner, base load and cheaper energy from large industrial players and power distributors.”

Origin’s chief development officer, David Baldwin, said:

“With this investment in EASA we have further expanded our geothermal portfolio. We look forward to working with AMSA and contributing Origin’s geothermal experience to successfully develop EASA’s portfolio of geothermal exploration projects.”

The Australian firm has been expanding into the geothermal sector in other countries. Last year, it was awarded the Sorik Marapi geothermal concession in Indonesia in a consortium with India’s Tata Power and PT Supraco Indonesia. Through its 52% interest in Contact Energy, one of New Zealand’s largest producers of geothermal electricity, Origin has exposure to 290 MW of geothermal generation and 364 MW of geothermal development. Origin also has interests in a number of geothermal exploration joint ventures in the Cooper Basin, South Australia.