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US company to expand project to produce methane from DRC’s Lake Kivu

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Winds Exploration and Production said its project to produce methane from Lake Kivu in the Democratic Republic of the Congo can be expanded to a $500m investment and displace diesel generators used by miners.

The company plans to build a modular plant, ship methane by pipeline and export liquefied carbon dioxide from the 473km² Idjwi block it won last month. 

The initial phase will cost about $120m and “subsequent modules will be added to fully exploit the gas”, said Uzo Ihekwoaba, a Winds E&P spokesperson. The company is in discussions with multiple partners that he declined to identify.

Electricity production from methane is part of the DRC’s plan to expand energy access to almost a third of its population by 2030 from about 10%. Lake Kivu contains enough methane — produced in part by microorganisms and dissolved in its deep waters — to generate an estimated 700MW of electricity for more than 50 years.

Rwanda has been exploiting the fuel to produce electricity on its side of the lake for several years. Symbion Power, which developed two of the Rwandan projects, is planning a 60MW gas-to-power project on Congo’s Makelele block.

Winds E&P is planning to build a pipeline south from the block to the city of Bukavu in mineral-rich South Kivu province, where the methane can fuel gas turbines and replace dirtier diesel generators typically used by mining companies in the DRC, Ihekwoaba said. 

The central African nation plans to launch a gold smelter in Bukavu this year. Processing plants for other minerals, including tin ore and tantalum, may soon follow. 

The carbon dioxide siphoned from the lake will be separated from the methane and shipped in liquefied form to markets in Asia, Ihekwoaba said. Congolese state-owned hydrocarbons company, Sonahydroc, will have a minority stake in the project, he said.  

Source : Business Live