Is Toxic Lake Gas Rwanda's Energy Future?

As if Rwanda needed more troubles, a toxic lake south of the city of Goma contains enough methane gas that, were it to seep to the surface, could fatally asphyxiate thousands of people. Or, it could revolutionize Africa's alternative energy infrastructure.


Lake Kivu, 480 mt deep and 48 km wide, on the border of the Congo and Rwanda, holds billions of cubic meters of methane below its surface. Gas concentrations have been steadily increasing in the year from subterranean volcanic activity and some vulcanologists predict a gas release may not be too far off. The region certainly is no stranger to disastrous lake events. In 1986 Lake Nyos in Cameroon released an invisible cloud of methane killing 1,700 people.

Enter ContourGlobal, a New York energy firm that has its sights set on underserved markets. Countour plans to install a floating platform in the middle of the lake from which they will extract gas deposits that lie dissolved over 200 mt below the surface. Contour promises to extend electicity to five percent of Rwanda from a generation depot they will establish on the south end of the lake. So, where some see toxic gas, others see alternative energy.

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