American and Canadian companies win a new gas exploration in DR Congo
NAIROBI, Kenya – In an effort to expand energy access and strengthen international partnerships, the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) has awarded licenses to explore three natural gas blocks in Lake Kivu to companies from the United States and Canada.
The country’s hydrocarbons ministry announced that US developer Symbion Power’s local subsidiary, RED, will take over the Makelele oil block, while the Idjwi block has been awarded to another US company, Winds Exploration and Production LLC.
While Canada-based Alfajiri Energy will be responsible for the Lwandjofu block. The awarding of these licenses is part of a larger licensing round that includes 27 onshore oil blocks, some of which are located in Congo’s rainforest and peatlands, raising concerns about potential environmental impacts.
The development is in line with the DRC’s goal of increasing its energy access from 10% of the population to 32% by 2030. The DRC hopes to tap the vast amounts of methane beneath Lake Kivu to generate electricity, similar to neighboring Rwanda.
The lake is estimated to hold enough methane to produce 700 megawatts of electricity for the next 50 years, and it is expected that production could begin as early as 2024.
Production sharing contracts are due to be signed within the next 15 days, marking a significant step forward in the DRC’s relationship with the US and Canada in the energy sector.
Paul Hinks-Symbion Power CEO told the media that production next year could be possible “if all goes well.” He further added that the process required tapping gas saturated in seawater more than 400 meters below the surface.
The gas block auction was part of a license round that included 27 onshore oil blocks. Some of the oil blocks were in Congo’s rainforest and peatlands, giving rise to environmental problems.
Previous efforts by the Congolese government to increase output beyond the roughly 25,000 barrels per day it has long produced along its Atlantic coast have encountered logistical challenges, environmental and political risks and regulatory uncertainty in the sector.
Government data reveals the country has 22 billion barrels of crude oil reserves, and it is targeting production of 200,000 barrels per day.