Explosive Methane Lake Becoming a Power Source

US company building plant that could almost double Rwanda's energy supply

By Kevin Spak,  Newser Staff

Posted May 26, 2014 9:35 AM CDT

(Newser) – A US company and the Rwandan government think they can turn an infamous lake from a time bomb into a power battery. Lake Kivu is loaded with a mix of methane and carbon dioxide that, if disturbed, could cause a disastrous explosion or "lake overturn," sending waves of gas into the air and suffocating as many as two million people in the surrounding region, the AFP explains. But projects are underway to suck gas out of the lake and turn it into electrical power—while simultaneously reducing the risk of an explosion.

A Rwandan government pilot program is already producing two megawatts of electricity. A plant under construction from the US-based ContourGlobal plans to take things several steps further, with the first phase projected to produce more than 25 megawatts, and the second phase amping that up to 100—which is almost twice the electricity that Rwanda as a whole currently produces. "Our grandfathers knew there was gas in this lake," an engineer on the government project once told the Guardian. "It's a cheap, clean resource that could last us 100 years."

Uruguayan United Nations Peace Keepers probe the shores of lake Kivu in Goma, eastern Congo, Tuesday Aug. 7, 2012.
Uruguayan United Nations Peace Keepers probe the shores of lake Kivu in Goma, eastern Congo, Tuesday Aug. 7, 2012.   (AP Photo/Jerome Delay)
Congolese fishermen bring a fishing trimaran back to shore on lake Kivu in Goma, eastern Congo, Tuesday Aug. 7, 2012.
Congolese fishermen bring a fishing trimaran back to shore on lake Kivu in Goma, eastern Congo, Tuesday Aug. 7, 2012.   (AP Photo / Jerome Delay)
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