The Government of Rwanda is working with experts to mitigate an imminent explosion of gases trapped under the surface of Lake Kivu that could cause a serious human catastrophe.
Recent reports suggest that the huge amounts of carbon dioxide and highly combustible methane gas trapped under the surface of Lake Kivu could explode soon if not exploited, leading to disastrous effects on the surrounding population.
In an interview with The New Times, Charles Nyirahuku, the Head of Oil and Gas Unit in the Ministry of Infrastructure and Energy, confirmed that indeed the alarm is there but the Ministry is working round the clock with experts to ensure that the fears are mitigated.
“Indeed much has been said about the danger and all this time we have been discussing possible mitigating measures.
We carried out a comprehensive study and found out that one way to mitigate the danger is to extract the gas. For the moment that is what we are focusing on.”
Nyirahuku said that the study came up with a set of rules and regulations that will be followed to ensure that the whole process of extraction is secure in the sense that an explosion is not triggered, until the possibility of one is completely eliminated.
Scientists recently found L. Kivu to contain approximately 55 billion cubic metres of dissolved carbon dioxide and methane gas at a depth of 300 metres, which if not exploited could go off in an explosion.
L. Kivu is classified among the few ‘explosive lakes’ remaining in the world.
Scientists however believe that the overall danger across the lake as a whole is minimal, but if it happens, it could take place in different places where a heavy concentration of the gasses is sighted.
Rwanda and DRC have agreed on a project to extract the huge amounts of methane gas in L. Kivu and convert it into electricity. Rwanda has already hired an American firm, Contour Global to carryout large scale extraction of the gas, following the success of the pilot project.
A similar study on the Congolese side of the Lake also revealed the same fears with the Congolese Environment Minister, Jose Endundo confirming the fears to Reuters.
“The explosion is imminent. It’s like a bottle of Coca-Cola or champagne.
If there is too much pressure inside the bottle, it will explode. It’s the same phenomenon,” Endundo told Reuters in an interview.
An estimated three cubic kilometres of carbon dioxide lie just 12 metres below the surface of the gulf, which sits atop a tectonic fault line.
Scientists fear a major earthquake or large lava flow from a nearby volcano could provoke a giant release of gas, creating a deadly cloud.
The erruption would be similar to that of L. Nyos in North Western Cameroon where some 1.2 million tonnes of Carbon dioxide exploded in 1986, suffocating and killing over 1700 people.
Rwanda’s US $325 million power project to produce 100MW annually has been boosted by talks with DRC to jointly carryout a project to produce over 200MW annually.