August 20, 2017

Rwanda’s methane power plant sets the tone for Africa

Methane plant Rwanda

It is incredible that Rwanda, which barely two decades ago was trying to pick up pieces soon after experiencing the worst genocide in living memory, has positioned itself as a model for implementing power generation projects in Africa.

Rwanda has commissioned a methane power plant which, according to the state-run Rwanda Energy Group (REG), will meet close to 60% of the country’s electricity needs, once running at full capacity.

Dubbed “KiviWatt”, the $200 million (145 million euros) power generation project is also a metaphor of the moral Rwanda has learnt from the effects of the genocide: the foresight of preventing a calamity from occurring rather than addressing its lofty consequences. Most significantly, it will reduce the risk of a potential natural disaster in the event of an earthquake disturbing Lake Kivu’s vast quantities of methane and natural gas.

Lake Kivu is one of the three lakes in the world which have highest concentrations of gases like methane, which, if left unattended, have lethal consequences. If released suddenly, thegases could suffocate people and livestock. The other two are Cameroon’s Lake Nyos and Lake Monoun.

“KivuWatt’”s implementation has been phenomenal, from the pilot which produced about two megawatts (MW) of electricity. Thus far, it has produced 26MW since December 2016.

The plant’s technology is incredible: a floating platform 13 kilometres (eight miles) off the shoreline employs a vacuum to suck up methane from 300 metres below the waterline instead of using drilling as with traditional methane extraction projects. Methane is then separated from water and carbon dioxide (Co2) and shipped to the shore via an underwater pipeline while excess CO2 is pumped back into the lake.

Three more platforms, which are set to be built by 2016, will increase the capacity of the “KivuWatt” project by 100 MW.  This will be a major boost to Rwanda’s current nationwide production capacity of just 160 MW.

REG sourced 55% of the project’s finance from private capital and the rest in the form of loans from international development institutions.

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