/ 7 March 2009

‘Killer’ lake generates power for Rwanda

Rwanda is to develop an integrated gas-extraction and electricity-generation facility at Lake Kivu to neutralise the ”killer lake” and generate power, officials said.

Lakes Nyos and Monoun in Cameroon and Lake Kivu are often referred to by some writers as ”killers” because they contain large quantities of methane gases, which could erupt, posing grave danger to surrounding communities.

According to Charles Nyirahuku, head of the Rwandan Methane Gas Project, the massive pool of methane in Lake Kivu’s bed has induced a steady rise in carbon dioxide and gas levels in recent years.

The gases pose a danger to local fishing communities and up to two million people who live around the lake in both Rwanda and neighbouring Democratic Republic of Congo.

This week Rwanda signed a US$325-million agreement with US-based energy firm Contour Global to extract the gas and generate up to 100MW of power for Rwanda as well as neighbouring countries.

”Extracting the gas greatly mitigates the environmental hazards associated with a natural release of the lake gases and provides an environmentally friendly and sustainable source of power generation,” the company said.

Several attempts have been made to extract the gas. Since the 1980s a pilot methane gas power project had been supplying power to nearby state-owned Bralirwa Brewery, but it closed in 2004.

In 2002 a volcanic eruption at Mount Nyirangongo, near the lake, spilled over into Goma, the provincial capital of North Kivu, killing dozens of people.

The lava spilled into the lake, raising fears that it could ignite the methane. —Irin