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The University of Rwanda is part of a consortium SUCCEED Network of five East African Universities and the University of Alicante (Spain) supported by the EU through EDULINK II. The objective of the project is to promote East African university campuses as “living laboratories” for sustainability energy and efficiency. University campuses and Higher Education Institutions in general have a great potential to become key players to promote sustainability and energy efficiency, starting with their own campuses.

One of the University of Rwanda’s strategies is to strengthen its relations with Private Sector through research, consultancy, internships, seminars and lectures. In the framework of partnership between the University of Rwanda and the industry, the Department of Physics has initiated a dialogue with industry through a series of dialogues and discussions between managers and scientists, administrative staff, students and members of the UR Energy Efficient Unit.

Last Wednesday 23rd November 2016 a second dialogue was animated by Eng. Alexis Kabuto, the General Manager of Symbion Power Lake Kivu Ltd., on “Strategies on Energy Access and Energy Efficiency in Rwanda, Opportunities from Kivu Methane Gas Power Plant”.

Lake Kivu is one of the most beautiful lakes in the World. It is located at an altitude of 1,460 meters above the sea level in the East African Rift Zone between Rwanda and the DRC. The total volume of water is 560 billion m3 with a total volume of dissolved carbon dioxide (CO2) of 255 billion m3 and a total volume of dissolved methane gas (CH4) of 65 billion m3. The methane in Lake Kivu is estimated to be sufficient to generate 700 MW of electricity over a period of 55 years. The main risks associated with the methane gas extraction are: (i) the alteration of the lake stability, (ii) the deterioration of the lake ecosystem due to an increase of the nutrients inputs, (ii) to waste the resources due to an inefficient technology

The Government of Rwanda has set to achieve 70% of the electricity access rate from the current 24% and aims at having an installed capacity of 563MW in 2018.

During his presentation, Eng. Alex Kabuto said that Symbion Power Lake Kivu Ltd is a key partner of Rwanda’s plan to increase generation capacity. An agreement between the Minister of Infrastructure and the CEO and founder of Symbion Power LLC was signed in December last year to produce 50 MW electricity from Lake Kivu methane gas which represents 30% of Rwanda’s total current installed capacity of 185MW countywide. Base load power generated from the lake resource methane gas by Symbion Power Lake Kivu Ltd will help boost Rwanda’s electricity supply and lower the overall cost of electricity.

The company will build a power station by constructing gas extraction facilities 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.

The process of extracting methane from the waters of Lake Kivu will be done in a safe and controlled manner, said Eng. Alex Kabuto. It starts with inlet water at a depth of –321 meters, water with dissolved gases comes through the vertical deep pipe to first Vessel Separator separation gases from water is proceeded. The rejecting water from Vessel Separator send back to Lake at a depth of 90 meters some gases such as hydrogen sulfide (H2S) and CO2. At this depth, it is good enough to keep the layers of lake stable due to hydrostatic pressure of water column. After the first Vessel Separator, the mixture of gases continue to the next vessel called Scrubber where cleaning of CH4 is processed from remaining mixture gases such as CO2and H2S.  The Process of scrubbing is done by pumping fresh water at -6meters to the top of scrubber which meets with the mixture of gases coming from the separator. During the process of scrubbing,  big amount of mixture of gases CO2 and H2S is solved in the fresh water, by the principle of solubility, and then the waste water is sent back to depth of -90 meters in the same way as the rejecting water of separator. CH4 which has low solubility in water continue through outlet of Scrubber to a Dryer for removal of additional humidity. The methane gas then goes through the gas pipe line to onshore Power Station. In case of startup process of gas extraction or in case of additional amount of gas in system, the gas is flared or burned to avoid penetration of gases into the ozone layer. Air-lift (compressed air) is used to increase flow of water from depth and therefore to increase the total amount of methane gas flowing through the process. The air-lift is connected to inlet pipe at a depth of 60 meters. This technology is the same as for Air Lift of Oilers.

By removing the methane, this power project will contribute to reduce the potential risk of gases trapped in the deep layers of the lake rising to the surface and endangering the surrounding communities, and will help to replace expensive, imported and polluting fuel with indigenous fuel sources to produce electricity, said Eng. Alex Kabuto. He highlighted that the first barge of Symbion Power Lake Kivu Ltd will provide 14 MW of electricity 15 months after the project reaches financial close and the full 50 MW will be commissioned within 36 months after the agreement completion.


Story by Head Physics Department: CST



Eng. Alexis Kabuto, the General Manager of Symbion Power Lake Kivu Ltd., delivering a lecture on “Strategies on Energy Access and Energy Efficiency in Rwanda, Opportunities from Kivu Methane Gas Power Plant”.



Lecturers, members of the UR EEU and students attending the lecture.


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