Rwanda to Exploit Methane Gas for Cooking Next Year

(file photo).
25 February 2021

Rwandans could start using locally produced cooking gas from Lake Kivu by the end of 2022 thanks to a project that seeks to process methane into Compressed Natural Gas (CNG).

CNG can be used as a substitute for petrol and diesel fuel as well as liquefied petroleum gas.

Stephen Tierney, the Chief Executive of Gasmeth - the company that will implement the project - told The New Times that despite delays occasioned by Covid-19 and associated shutdowns, gas production will begin before the end of 2022.

"The entire project will be live by then," he said.

In February 2019, Rwanda inked a $400 million deal with Gasmeth Energy to extract and process methane into CNG for cooking, industrial use and vehicles. By then, it was projected that the gas would be ready for use within two years.

The deal is expected to cut Rwanda's LPG imports.

The project involves construction of an offshore gas extraction facility along with onshore gas processing and compression plants for CNG.

Gasmeth reportedly signed a 25-year concession agreement with Rwanda for extracting up to 40MMscf/d (40 million standard cubic feet per day) of natural gas from Lake Kivu in Rwanda.

Gasmeth along with its partners have completed the project designs, Tierney said.

He added that Environmental and Social Impact Assessment (ESIA) work is all complete to the highest standards appropriate for "our international lenders."

"As you can appreciate a privately funded project of this scale requires a great deal of support from both local and international equity providers/lenders. We are fortunate to have received great support for this strategically important project and expect to close the final capital raise by mid-year," he said.

He said that their current efforts are focused on working with the government towards signing up gas customers. The project is also anticipated to reduce pollution and tree felling.

"We anticipate that approximately half of our overall production will be for the domestic cooking market," Tierney said.

The project could serve 300-400,000 households who currently depend on wood fuel for cooking.

The demand for cooking gas has been on the rise as Rwanda seeks to adopt clean cooking energy solutions in a bid to reduce the use of charcoal and firewood as cooking fuels.

And, the use of cooking gas has also attracted interest from public entities including refugee camps, prisons, schools, and the police.

The use of cooking gas has benefits including saving time and being safe compared to charcoal or firewood that emit smoke that is harmful to people's health.

According to estimates from the Ministry of Infrastructure, the demand for LPG is set to rise to more than 240,000 tonnes by 2024 from 10,000 tonnes in 2017.

The national energy balance shows that a significant share of energy in Rwanda is consumed in the form of traditional biomass which includes firewood and charcoal.

Rwanda has a target to reduce biomass consumption from 79 per cent in 2017 to 42 per cent by 2024.

In order to reduce the high reliance on biomass, various strategies were identified in the forms of alternative energy including cooking to replace wood and charcoal for domestic and institutional heating and cooking.

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