Rwanda to Begin Geothermal Drilling

Geothermal power
East Africa has huge geothermal potential

AFRICANGLOBE – The Government of Rwanda has allocated $27 million (Rwf17.1bn) towards the drilling of three geothermal wells on the southern slopes of the Karisimbi volcano, an official from Energy, Water and Sanitation Authority (EWSA) has said.

Uwera Rutagarama, EWSA’s head of geothermal development, said last week that the drilling is planned for April 15, and is expected to last about six months. The exercise was supposed to start December last year but was delayed due to some physical works needed to be done, at the sites before the drilling exercise.

“We are currently looking at Karisimbi geothermal prospect in Nyabihu district. We are planning to drill three exploration wells to three kilometers depth to prove the existence of geothermal. If the exercise becomes successful, the pilot phase will see the construction of 10 megawatts (MW) of energy,” she said.

Rutagarama stated that to achieve the target, contracts for drilling services were awarded early 2012 to several local and international companies.

She explained: “The contracts were awarded to the Great Wall Drilling Company, a Chinese firm, the supply of drilling materials will be handled by China Petroleum Development and Technology Corporation (CPTDC), rehabilitation of the road to the drilling site will be undertaken by ERGECO, a local firm, and the water supply to the site and civil works will be done by Yashinoya Ltd, a Kenyan company.”

Geothermal energy exploitation involves extracting hot water from geologically active areas and using it to provide heat to generate electricity.

Preliminary findings, in early 2011, by the Kenya Electricity Generating Company (KenGen), which was contracted in 2010 to conduct a thorough surface exploration of geothermal energy, indicated that Rwanda’s potential is estimated to be more than 700 MW.

At the time, based on the preliminary KenGen data, the western region geothermal spot was divided into three regions of Karisimbi, Gisenyi and Kinigi that could be developed separately.

Nevertheless, Rutagarama said that previous studies identified four main geothermal prospects in the areas of Karisimbi, Kinigi, Gisenyi and Bugarama and the plan is to generate 300 MW by 2017.

“The drilling of Karisimbi area will be followed by Kinigi region next year,” she noted. The search for geothermal resources in Rwanda started in 2006 as government looked to diversify energy sources in the generation of electricity.

While appearing before parliament last December, Prime Minister Pierre Damien Habumuremyi presented the government’s Rwf3 trillion ($4.7bn)-road map for energy production and accessibility over the next five years.

Government plans to progressively tap 200MW from peat, 310MW from geothermal, 320MW from hydro power, and 300MW from methane gas, among others. Presently, the country produces 110.8MW which equals to 16 per cent in terms of domestic accessibility.

With 1, 000MW, accessibility could reach 70 per cent.