Govt: Methane project in Kivu still on course

Saturday March 09 2013

A gas extraction barge being assembled on the shores of Lake Kivu in Karongi District, Western Province. Photo/Cyril Ndegeya

The government is still hopeful that the methane gas project in Lake Kivu will pull through.

In 2009, the government and Contour Global Ltd entered a power purchase agreement that saw the latter develop methane resources in the lake, which lies on the border with Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), to produce 25 Megawatts to add to the national grid.

When Rwanda Today visited the project, a flat-bottomed barge was being assembled, a submerged 15 kilometre floating pipeline to transport the fuel gas ashore from the barge had been laid and an onshore gas receiving facility was complete.

Rwanda suffers an acute shortage of power and the little that is available is expensive, which has hindered investment.

READ: Methane power to double Rwanda energy output

The project, which came to be named KivuWatt, is located in Karongi District, Western Province, on the shores of Lake Kivu but when extraction of methane begins at a time yet to be known, some operations shall be located 15km offshore.


The lake lies in the western part of the East African Rift Valley, which is home to some of the oldest, largest and deepest lakes in the world, many of which have fresh water.

Lake Kivu however not only has fresh waters and silver cyprinid (sambaza), which is a valued delicacy in Rwanda, but with another valuable natural resource: Methane gas.

Scientists say there is 55-60 cubic km of trapped methane and carbon dioxide that could be released explosively within the next 100 to 200 years if measures are not taken to reduce its presence.

This catastrophic event could suffocate many of the hundreds of thousands of people living near the lake shore.

READ: Rwanda told: Tap the killer gas

Project KivuWatt will draw on this trapped methane gas and process it for power generation.

The date for the commissioning of the project has been postponed many a time and, at one point, the government threatened to review the agreement because of the delays in the completion of the project.

New technology

Officials say this vital project, which when fully complete will add some 100 MW of power to the national grid, is built on a new technology that has not been applied anywhere in the world.

“Methane gas was located 15 kilometres inside the lake and 390 metres deep,” Superiano Gatera, community liaison officer of the project, said in an interview.

“It is the first time methane is going to be extracted from deep waters.

“The technology is the first of its kind and this has necessitated adjustments and multiple audits to minimise risk.”

Project officials however declined to state how much the project will cost.