KINSHASA May 30 Democratic Republic of Congo's
oil ministry has called for bids to exploit reserves of methane
gas at the bottom of Lake Kivu on its eastern border with
Rwanda, the prime minister's office said on Friday.
The office announced the tender on its twitter account but
did not give details. An oil ministry official said the tender
process had not yet begun but added that Congo needed the gas to
help meet its energy deficit.
"It is very important that we exploit this gas, because
otherwise it has the potential to explode and cause significant
damage to the population," said the ministry official, who
Methane and carbon dioxide collect at the bottom of the
lake's icy waters. Although there has been no major incident on
Lake Kivu in recent times, in 1986 a gas leak on Lake Nyos in
Cameroon, which has smaller concentrations, suffocated about
Congo's vast network of rivers has the potential to generate
100,000 megawatts of hydroelectric power, according to the
government, enough to supply much of Africa. But that potential
is largely unexploited, and currently only 9 percent of Congo's
population has access to power.
Methane is already being exploited on the Rwandan side of
Lake Kivu to produce around 26 MW of power, and operator
U.S.-based company ContourGlobal plans to expand capacity to 100
Congo also has vast mineral deposits of diamonds, gold, tin,
coltan and cobalt, and the economy depends on the mining sector.
Meeting energy demand has become a government priority.
Industrial mining operators have only recently come to
Congo's troubled eastern provinces of North and South Kivu,
which have been the scene of violent conflicts stretching back
for nearly two decades.
(Reporting By Peter Jones; Editing by Joe Bavier and Jane