Rwanda harnesses volcanic gases from depths of Lake Kivu  

Posted by Big Gav in , ,

The Guardian has an article on extracting methane from central africa's great lakes to use in power generation - Rwanda harnesses volcanic gases from depths of Lake Kivu.

It's dusk on Lake Kivu and the fishermen sing while paddling out in their catamarans, three canoes secured together with long wooden poles. As the twin volcanoes on the far shore disappear into the darkness the men spark kerosene lamps to attract the sambaza sardines into their nets. Across the vast lake their lanterns offer the only tiny sequins of light.

At least that is how it used to be. Now, near the northern shore, the bright fluorescent bulbs illuminating a tall barge can be seen from miles away. It is the start of a project that could light up the whole of Rwanda for decades, while also reducing the risk of disaster for the two million people living alongside this rare "exploding lake".

In a world first, the barge is extracting gases that are trapped deep in Lake Kivu's waters like the fizz in a champagne bottle. Methane, the main constituent of natural gas used for household cooking and heating, is then separated out and piped back to the rugged shore where it fires three large generators.

The state-owned Kibuye Power plant is already producing 3.6MW of electricity, more than 4% of the country's entire supply. But the success of the pilot project, and the huge unmet demand for power in Rwanda — only one in 14 homes have access to electricity — has encouraged local and foreign investors to commit hundreds of millions of dollars to new methane plants along the lakeshore.

Within two years, the government hopes to be getting a third of its power from Lake Kivu, and eventually aims to produce so much energy from methane to be able to export it to neighbouring countries.

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