Rwanda and the Democratic Republic of Congo have agreed to commission a feasibility study for joint development of 200 megawatts of power from methane gas from Lake Kivu, which straddles their common border.
The memorandum of understanding signed recently by the two countries proposes a joint taskforce of technical experts who will carry out a study to determine the costs, timeline and impact of the project.
If the agreement comes into force, experts in the field see it not only as economically beneficial but also as having a stabilising influence on the two countries whose relations are often tested by mutual suspicion and cross-border incidents.
“The joint agreement on the exploration of Lake Kivu got signed on June 22, in Bukavu, and the two countries have now designated teams to carry out technical tasks, mostly feasibility studies, designs and drafts,” said Alexis Karani, an advisor to Rwanda’s Minister of State for Energy and Water.
According to Mr Karani, the teams will be meeting regularly to fine tune the deal and agree on other details such as supervision of the project and sharing of the energy that will be produced.
As of now, any of the two countries can subscribe to a maximum of half of the project.
“The objective of the MoU is to have a joint project to produce up to 200 MW. Normally, each country should have 100 MW, but I think that if one of them wants less, it can request less,” said Ms Augusta Umutoni the head of the Lake Kivu Monitoring Programme at Rwanda’s Ministry of Infrastructure.
Ms Umutoni further explained that the two countries will work together to identify an operator and negotiate on the conception of the joint project, after which a committee will be put in place to monitor implementation.
If it comes to fruition, this will be the largest methane gas plant on the lake after the 26MW KivuWatt power station developed by Contour Global, an American company.
Reports from the Ministry of Infrastructure suggest that as much as 300 billion cubic metres of carbon dioxide and 60 billion cubic metres of methane gas lay under Lake Kivu.
Lake Kivu’s methane was first tapped by Union Chemique de Belge and developed a small pilot plant in 1963 to supply the Bralirwa brewery.
The two countries are cooperating on the 145Mw Rusizi111 hydropower project whose construction is ongoing at a cost of $450 million. The power will benefit Rwanda, the Democratic Republic of Congo and Burundi.
The project is being developed under CEPGL (Communaute des Pays des grand Lacs) umbrella for Rwanda, Burundi and DRC.