Rwanda, DRC in deal to manage L. Kivu methane gas exploration

Kibuye Power 1, which the Rwandan and Congolese officials toured on Thursday, has the capacity to produce 3.5 megawatts of methane gas energy. (Jean d'Amour Mbonyinshuti)

Kibuye Power 1, which the Rwandan and Congolese officials toured on Thursday, has the capacity to produce 3.5 megawatts of methane gas energy. (Jean d’Amour Mbonyinshuti)

This was said Thursday by government officials from Rwanda and DR Congo while signing a memorandum of understanding under which the two countries committed to the protection of Lake Kivu and extraction of methane gas in a way that would not affect the environment and the population living around the lake.

Speaking at the event in Rubavu District, the State Minister in charge of Energy and Water, Germaine Kamayirese, said the last agreement between Rwanda and DR Congo on the management of the lake served between 2007 and 2009.

She said the current memorandum of understanding is meant to ensure that the exploration of methane gas by either country is done scientifically following guidelines established by a joint technical team set up to ensure ecological safety.

“If there in an error in gas exploration it might cause a catastrophe,” Kamayirese said.

“Studies have shown that the lake can produce up to 700 megawatts of electricity daily from methane gas that should be shared equally. We need to respect all the necessary guidelines in the extraction of methane gas so that we don’t waste a crucial resource,” she added.

The long-awaited KivuWatt Methane Energy Plant on Lake Kivu was finally connected to the national grid this month, with early testing of the power plant generating up to 22 megawatts against its 25-megawatt capacity.

Kinshasa upbeat on methane gas

While Rwanda has made strides in its methane gas projects, officials from the DR Congo government say although they haven’t started exploration they are committed to starting as soon as possible.

According to Aimé Ngoi Mukena Lusa Desiré, the Congolese minister in charge of hydrocarbons, Kinshasa would follow Rwanda’s steps to ensure the extraction of methane gas in Lake Kivu starts and that the population benefits from the natural resource.

“The population needs electricity but also they need to be protected; we’ve already fulfilled all requirements and we are in the process of looking for a company to start from our side,” Lusa said.

“We are looking for financial and technical capacities to designate an operator.”

However, the Congolese minister said the fully-fledged exploration would take place only after technical expertise has been provided on how to exploit the gas without causing any harm to environment and the population.

Rwanda, with the support of the Dutch government, has been working on a project that monitors Lake Kivu.

The DR Congo government was encouraged to play a bigger role in the monitoring of the lake.

By Jean d’Amour Mbonyinshuti, The New Times

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