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Wärtsilä to supply methane-fired power plant to Rwanda

KivuWatt, a subsidiary of the New York-based power company ContourGlobal, has awarded Wärtsilä the contract to supply a power plant to Rwanda. The turnkey project is of particular significance since the power plant will use methane gas from the nearby Lake Kivu as fuel.

Lake Kivu, located on the border between Rwanda and the Democratic Republic of Congo, contains high concentrations of naturally-occurring methane gas. By tapping this indigenous fuel to generate energy, the country can reduce its need to import energy as well as mitigate the risk of sudden, catastrophic methane gas releases.

“For the Republic of Rwanda this is a win-win situation. On the one hand, gas levels in Lake Kivu need to be reduced in order to lessen the risks of a spontaneous gas eruption in the future that could have hazardous consequences. At the same time, the country urgently needs additional power generation capacity, and so by utilising the lake’s methane gas, both goals are achieved,” says Joseph C. Brandt, President and CEO of ContourGlobal.

While two smaller power plants already operate using the lake’s methane gas, this is the first time that Lake Kivu’s methane gas will be used to fuel a power plant of this size. The plant will be powered by 20-cylinder Wärtsilä 34SG gas-powered engines and have an electrical output of 25MW. The actual extraction of gas from the lake is not included within Wärtsilä’s contractual scope.

“This is a landmark project, and one that has the potential for huge environmental and economic implications,” says Tony van Velzen, Regional Director, Africa, Wärtsilä Power Plants. “This kind of unique challenge is one that Wärtsilä is well able to handle. Smart Power Generation, providing the ability to use the most readily available fuel, in this case methane gas, is a key element in meeting future energy needs.”

Future planned expansions to this project will increase this output by an additional 75 MW. Delivery of the equipment is scheduled for the first quarter of 2012, and the plant is expected to be operational in the third quarter of that same year, delivering power to Rwanda’s national utility.

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