US electrical power company Symbion Power has secured a deal with a Rwandan government agency to build a 50MW independent power producer (IPP) project using methane gas from Lake Kivu, on the border with the Democratic Republic of Congo.

Signed during the Power-Africa summit held in Washington DC last week, the deal between Rwanda’s Energy Water and Sanitation Authority (EWSA) and Symbion will see the creation of a power station to lift, separate, and process methane gas, which is dissolved in the deep waters of Lake Kivu, and then deliver it to an on-shore generating facility located at Cape of Busororo in the Nyamyumba area of Rwanda.

Lake Kivu contains 300 km3 of dissolved carbon dioxide and 55 to 60 km3 of methane gas accumulated and trapped at significant depth in the lake.

Paul Hinks, chief executive officer of Symbion Power, said: “Symbion’s IPP project will use Lake Kivu’s methane resources for a commercial benefit for the people of Rwanda, but it will also reduce the risk of an environmental disaster.

“Without the removal of methane and carbon dioxide, there is a risk of a sudden release of large quantities of these gases with a potentially catastrophic result.”

Rather than just vent the 50-60 km3 of methane, Symbion will use the produced methane for power generation. The methane gas production will be used to power reciprocating gas engine generator sets producing 50MW in a phased approach.