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Nov 11, 2011

Lake Kivu methane to fuel 25 MW Rwanda power plant

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Indigenous and naturally occurring methane gas from Lake Kivu, in Rwanda, will fuel a turnkey power plant to be built by power generation and services specialist company Wärtsilä.

The plant will be powered by 20-cylinder Wärtsilä 34SG gas-powered engines and have an electrical output of 25 MW. Future planned expansions to this project will increase this output to 100 MW. Delivery of the equipment is scheduled for the first quarter of next year and the plant is expected to be operational in the third quarter.

“Lake Kivu, located on the border between Rwanda and the Democratic Republic of Congo, contains high concentrations of naturally occurring methane gas. By tapping this indigenous fuel to generate energy, the need to import energy can be reduced,” the company reports.

Meanwhile, since the natural build-up of the gas is ongoing, it has been predicted in studies that a saturation point will eventually be reached that could lead to a catastrophic gas release. Extraction of the gas, thus, has the potential to mitigate the risks of dangerous eruptions and provide substantial energy reserves. The extraction of gas from the lake, however, is not included within Wärtsilä’s contractual scope, it adds.

Local utility KivuWatt, a subsidiary of the New York-based international power company ContourGlobal, placed the order and, when operational, the power plant will supply electricity to Rwanda’s national utility.

“Gas levels in Lake Kivu need to be reduced to reduce the risks of a spontaneous gas eruption in the future that could have hazardous consequences. Simultaneously, the country urgently needs additional power generation capacity and, by using the lake’s methane gas, both goals are achieved,” says ContourGlobal president and CEO Joseph Brandt.

“This is a landmark project and one that has the potential for huge environmental and economic implications. Smart power generation, using the most readily available fuel, in this case methane gas, is a key element in meeting future energy needs,” says Wärtsilä Power Plants Africa regional director Tony van Velzen.

Two smaller power plants already operate using the lake’s methane gas for fuel, the com- pany concludes.

Edited by: Martin Zhuwakinyu
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