The first gas samples on the KivuWatt methane to power project have been extracted and were successfully tested last night signaling a major breakthrough for the multi-million dollar venture whose creation has lasted seven years.
Jarmo Gummerus, the country director of ContourGlobal, the American energy firm with a 25-year deal to produce 100MW from the methane-rich Lake Kivu, has confirmed the development saying it’s the first step before fully fledged production.
This is the project’s first phase and it’s expected to add at least 25MW to the national grid before the end of next month.
As work on the first phase which has consumed over three million man hours come to an end, engineers have already started shifting their focus to the second phase, also expected to produce another 25MW.
Earlier this month, Gummerus told this newspaper that he expected the second, third and final phases of the venture to be accomplished much faster using experience and lessons obtained from the first phase which he described as a ‘lake-breaking’ exercise.
The New Times was given exclusive access to the plant earlier this month and found engineers in a head scratching mood as they tried to fix last minute technical malfunctions involving separators that had made it impossible to extract the first gas.
There are two pairs of separators, long and wide metallic pipe drums weighing several hundred tonnes whose job is to separate gas from water before it’s processed into electricity.
After sinking the first pair of separators several meters underneath the lake, two months ago, it emerged that they were not working as expected and had to be reinstalled; the process required flying in expert divers from South Africa to retrieve them.
German engineers who designed the separators were also flown in for trouble shooting the entire ordeal cost the project over a month as engineers got down to work to fix the glitches.
The successful gas flaring exercise Thursday night means that the problems have been fixed and that the plant is nearly ready for fulltime production.
“We should expect to have electricity from the plant to the national grid in mid-October,” Gummerus told The New Times in a recent interview.