Rwanda and DRC to mutually tap gas sources at Lake Kivu

Apr 03, 2007 02:00 AM

Rwanda and the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) have agreed to extract billions of cf of natural gas trapped deep in Lake Kivu, on their mutual border, in a scheme designed to provide power to the under-developed area as well as heading off a potentially deadly threat.
The countries are working to tap high concentrations of methane which have seeped into the lake's deepest waters as a result of volcanic activity. The lake is estimated to contain up to 55 bn cm of natural gas, Celestin Kasereka, a researcher at the nearby Goma volcanic observatory told.

The gas could be used to provide up to 500 MW of power for the Congolese city of Goma and other areas around the lake. However, scientists are worried that the highly concentrated methane in the lake's deep waters could explode, triggering a massive release of even higher levels of associated carbon dioxide. A large release of gas could suffocate tens of thousands of the 2 mm people who live around the 50 by 90 km lake.
The lake's waterscontain five times as much carbon dioxide as methane. A gas release triggered by an explosion in Cameroon's Lake Nyos in 1986 killed 1800 people.

Lake Kivu lies in the western Rift Valley close to Mount Nyiragongo, a volcano which erupted in 2002, destroying large parts of the city of Goma and displacing thousands of people with lava flows. The gas would be tapped from highly pressured waters below depths of 350 metres in the lake, which contain up to 2.5 litres of gas dissolved in every litre of water, scientists working on the project said.
The agreement between Rwanda and the DRC was signed on 28 March. The project is expected to enter operation in 2009.

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