PF Archive

African Power Deal of the Year 2011: KivuWatt

07 02 2012

ContourGlobal’s methane extraction and generation project on Lake Kivu, Rwanda, stretches the definition of essential infrastructure. It may, though the stress should be on may, prevent an ecological and human catastrophe that would claim thousands of lives around the lake. But the lake’s unique chemistry means that the technical, and to a lesser extent financial lessons, can only be applied to future projects on lake Kivu, and nowhere else. Lake Kivu is one of three exploding lakes, whose lake-beds contain huge quantities of carbon dioxide (the other two are in Cameroon) and the only one that also contains large quantities of methane. The presence of the gases is thought to be the result of the interaction between micro-organisms and the volcanic rock underneath the lakes. The lakes are given to large-scale and sudden releases of gases, which could at the very least suffocate much of the population living near a lake, and in the case of Kivu’s flammable deposits, cause damage to flora and infrastructure. For most of the past decade, the Rwandan government has looked to exploit these deposits, although it is only as the country...