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    Rwanda's Lake Tivu Draws $400mn Investment

Summary

It is a win-win-win for the producer, the host country's coffers and its environment.

by: Thulani Mpofu

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Rwanda's Lake Tivu Draws $400mn Investment

Rwanda and a private company have signed a $400mn deal for the extraction, processing and storing methane that is trapped in the depths of a major lake on the country's western border with the Democratic Republic of Congo.

The seven-year agreement was signed in Kigali, the Rwandan capital February 1 but was officially announced by the Rwanda Development Board (RDB) February 5.  The RDB said Gasmeth Energy – jointly owned by Rwandese, Nigerian and American investors – will drill for gas from Lake Kivu's floor, process it and compress it into cylinders for use as fuel. 

"The natural gas produced by the plant will help reduce the use of wood and charcoal as a cooking fuel as well as diesel fuel in the automotive industry," RDB CEO Clare Akamanzi said.

"The deep water of Lake Kivu contains dissolved methane and carbon dioxide. These gases pose a serious risk to all the oxygen dependent life in the vicinity of the lake as they continue to build up. However, methane gas also provides an energy resource valued at billions of dollars for the Kivu region.  We therefore welcome the Gasmeth Energy project because not only will it reduce the risk of a methane gas explosion, it will also provide jobs, reduce Rwanda's natural gas import bill, increase gas exports and provide cleaner cooking fuel for Rwandans," she said.

Already, London-headquartered Contour Global is tapping methane that occurs 500 metres from the surface of the lake to generate 26 MW of electricity.  A US firm, Symbion Power is in the process of raising finance for a parallel project. Rwanda produces a total of 209 MW of which 110 MW is hydropower and 73 MW comes from thermal sources including peat and the remainder from methane.    

Said RDB: "The project will include a gas extraction plant on Lake Kivu, where Gasmeth Energy will extract and separate methane gas from water and thereafter transport it to an onshore plant where they will compress it. The compressed natural gas will be distributed on both the local and international market."