TotalEnergies has inked a deal with Rwanda’s government to collaborate on a wide range of energy projects, including nature-based carbon storage solutions.

Rwanda – whose armed forces are heavily involved in fighting an Islamist insurgency in Mozambique that forced TotalEnergies to declare force majeure last year on its $20 billion Mozambique LNG project – relies on methane gas from Lake Kivu, hydroelectricity and biomass to meet its growing power needs.

During a visit to Rwanda yesterday, TotalEnergies’ chief executive Patrick Pouyanne and Rwanda Development Board (RDB), a public institution responsible for accelerating Rwanda’s economic development, signed a memorandum of understanding to develop collaboration on projects related to energies.

The scope of the agreement includes the distribution of energy products (including liquified petroleum gas and electric charging); substituting LPG for burning biomass; renewable hydro-electricity generation; developing power storage solutions for the electrical network; developing nature-based solution for carbon storage; and implementing education and training programmes on new energies and the energy transition.

The French supermajor also announced the incorporation of a local company - TotalEnergies Marketing Rwanda - and the opening of a permanent representation office in Kigali.

Commenting on the MoU, Pouyanne said: “This collaboration agreement illustrates TotalEnergies' commitment to deploying its multi-energy strategy in Africa, particularly in Rwanda, a country with a booming economy.”

“We are pleased to seize this opportunity to work together with Rwanda and contribute to the development of its energy sector, in line with TotalEnergies’ ambition to become a global multi energy company”

RDB chief executive Clare Akamanzi said: “The collaboration with TotalEnergies in the energy sector, particularly the investment they will make in clean energy storage, distribution, partnerships with our private sector companies in Rwanda and beyond, is timely for a country that puts the environment at the heart of its development strategies.”

“Additionally, the skills transfer in critical areas such as renewable energies and energy transition will undoubtedly contribute to the development of local expertise in the energy sector,” she said.

Lake Kivu holds about 2.22 trillion cubic feet of methane gas (plus significant volumes of carbon dioxide) some 1.58 Tcf of which is recoverable.

It is the only lake in the world where methane is released from the lake bed into the waters where it collects in a layer.

Rwanda shares this gas resource with the Democratic Republic of Congo, although only the Kigali-based authorities are commercialising it, mainly as feedstock for power plants.

Three companies have concession agreements — KivuWatt, Symbion Power and Gasmeth Power.

KivuWatt’s groundbreaking methane extraction barge was commissioned in December 2015.

This project is gradually being expanded so it can supply enough gas to generate about 100 MW of power.

Symbion has a pilot scheme and aims to generate 56 MW of power, while Kigali-based Gasmeth aims to use Lake Kivu’s resource to produce compressed natural gas for local and regional markets, potentially displacing biomass.

Speaking to Upstream in 2019, Francis Gatare, chief executive of the Rwanda Mines, Petroleum & Gas Board and the former head of RDB, said feasibility studies were also underway to use methane as a transport fuel or to produce fertilisers and petrochemicals.

At full capacity, KivuWatt – which is owned by London-listed ContourGlobal - and New York-based Symbion could just about meet all of Rwanda’s current power needs, although more generation capacity is needed because the country’s demand is forecast to hit 400 MW by 2025.

Gatare said the government is looking at ways that Lake Kivu’s carbon dioxide resource could be monetised.

One possibility may be to pipe the gas to TotalEnergies’ huge Tilenga oil development in neighbouring Uganda for enhanced oil recovery purposes.

Other options could include the production of synthetic gases and micro-algae.

“The CO2 is easy to extract and I would invite companies to consider commercialising this resource,” Gatare told Upstream.

News of the MoU between TotalEnergies and the RDB came just as Rwanda re-opened its border with Uganda which had been closed for three years.