Lake Kivu in Rwanda is one of the world’s deepest lakes. However, the lake has high levels of trapped carbon dioxide and methane amounting to 300 and 60 billion cubic meters respectively. Carbon dioxide in the water is released from molten rock material and fossil planktons while methane is formed from CO2 by bacteria. These gases are hidden at a depth of 80metres from the river bed. Due to these energy poisonous gases, the government has come up with the Kivu watt project to help reduce their concentration levels in the lake. This project integrates the extraction of methane gas from the water body and uses it in power production.
Scientists have predicted that in case of a powerful earthquake, storm or lava flow into the lake, an estimated 20 million people living around the shore have a probability of dying. This is because such magma and lava flow will result in an outburst in the lake. As such water level will rise hence the toxic gases will escape and cause gas poisoning. in case of such havocs. Some aquatic animals e.g. fish were also found dead on the shore sometime back. Though useful, the lake can cause irreversible damages to the people and the environment at large.
How is the gas extracted?
Following the integrated means, methane gas is collected. This process is conducted with the help of submerged pipes. These pipes are directed close to the lake bed where methane gas is generated. As such, the pipes pump the contaminated water up the gas laden to the barge. Methane gas is siphoned and channeled to the power plant. The 25MW engines in the plant then generate electricity from the gas. Nevertheless, the degassed water is returned to the lake.
Benefits of the project to the country
Kivu watt project contributes to about 30% of the country’s economy. It is a mitigation measure to the toxic gases present in the lake. Through siphoning out of methane and CO2, there is a reduction in concentration levels of the gases. Hence, lesser danger is posed to the inhabitants around the shore together with aquatic life. As a result of the project, about 51% of the Rwandans have electricity. The project has promoted universal electrification; both rural and urban inhabitants can access electricity. Electricity comes in handy with the growth of infrastructures. Moreover, following the implementation of the project, people gained employment opportunities. Some have permanent jobs while other contracts.
Using Diesel to generate power
Most of all, with the project, there has been limited use of diesel to generate power. Especially as diesel fluctuates in price, the government of Rwanda is certain it will provide affordable electricity for its citizens. The energy will be available to everyone for a long period. Nevertheless, the estimated cost of completion of the project is a huge sum. Currently, its first phase is complete, and they are looking forward to finishing the second one.