A gas-fired power plant inaugurated this week in Rwanda’s western province will add much-needed power to the nation’s grid while solving a local pollution problem.

The 25 MW KivuWatt plant (pictured), developed by Wärtsilä and owned by US-based power project developer ContourGlobal, is powered by three Wärtsilä 34SG engines running on methane gas extracted from Lake Kivu near the city of Kibuye.

According to Wärtsilä, Lake Kivu has been known as the ‘killer lake’ due to the large amounts of methane gas trapped under a layer of heavy water washed out of the nearby volcanoes. When the gas concentration gets too high, or the lake is hit by one of the region’s regular earthquakes, the gas can be set free, posing a threat to local residents.

Wärtsilä said the plant’s engines are optimized to run on Lake Kivu’s gases, which have a lower heating value than normal natural gas. To fuel the plant, the methane is lifted from a depth of 300 metres by a barge anchored 13 km offshore. The gas is purified on the barge and transported to shore through an underwater pipeline.

Construction work began in 2011 and the plant has been operational since December 2015. According to ContourGlobal, its production is expected to reach 100 MW by 2019. An additional 34SG engine is planned to be added by the end of this year, providing another 9 MW.

At the inauguration ceremony, Joseph Brandt, CEO of ContourGlobal, said: “This project will significantly enhance the energy supply of the country, while improving the safety of the millions of people living on the shores of Lake Kivu”.