KARONGI - Government officials, development partners and managers of ContourGlobal, yesterday gathered on the shores of Lake Kivu to set off the state-of-the-art methane gas extraction barge .
The ceremony also saw the ground breaking of the 25 megawatt power plant site.
The project’s 25 megawatts is expected to increase Rwanda’s power capacity by 40 percent and lower the cost of electricity.
Kivuwatt project is a subsidiary of ContourGlobal, a New York based international power company.
Speaking at the event, the State Minister for Energy and Water, Eng. Colletha Ruhamya, said that energy remains a key driver for social economic growth, observing that Rwanda had prioritised energy production in its agenda.
“We believe that the current economic growth that Rwanda enjoys must be supported by an increase in energy generation and distribution,” she said.
“The government, therefore, is facilitating the participation of independent power producers into the power generation business. I encourage other private companies to invest in big energy projects as they remain untapped and unutilised”.
Ruhamya called upon international lenders to explore more projects to fund in Rwanda particularly in the energy sector. She reiterated that investment in electricity cannot be provided by the public sector alone but demands joint efforts from all stakeholders.
The Charge d'Affaires of the U.S. Embassy to Rwanda, Anne Casper, said that the project would boost Rwanda’s energy output and its independence.
“This will facilitate in reducing Rwanda’s dependence on wood and petroleum as energy sources. This will also increase Rwanda’s competitiveness in the East African Region and on the global market,” Casper said.
The CEO of ContourGlobal, Joseph Brandt, described the project as a landmark since it is the only one globally with such sophisticated technology.
“There has never been a project like this, and of this size anywhere in the world; it has been designed from scratch and conceptualised by the best technicians from around the world and this was their biggest challenge ever,” Brandt said.
There are only three lakes in the world that have the methane gas resource and Lake Kivu is the only one where the extraction barge technology has been tried.
According to the CEO, the barge is 750 tonnes heavy, 64 metres long and 25 metres wide. It’s made of steel and has a closely similar floating technology to that of a ship.
All the materials for the extraction would be fitted on top of the barge platform.
The construction of the barge began in January last year.
The project’s total cost is US$142.2million. So far, financiers have availed a total of US$91million. ContourGlobal intends to extract the gas in three phases; the first phase involves the extraction of the methane using the floating barge that will be located about 13 kilometres off-shore.
The project is supported by the African Development Bank (ADB), Emerging Africa Infrastructure Fund (EAIF) and the entrepreneurial development bank of the Netherlands (FMO).
The Country Representative of AfDB, Negatu Makonnen, stated that the bank is proud to be part of the financiers of what he called a great project.
“The Kivuwatt will provide affordable power supply with improved reliability that will increase electricity access to both rural households and businesses in Rwanda,” he said
Currently Rwanda’s domestic power comes from hydropower, limited solar energy and diesel-fired energy among others.