The Democratic Republic of Congo has awarded licenses to three natural gas blocks in Lake Kivu, on its eastern border, and some production is expected to begin as early as next year, the hydrocarbons ministry announced.
The Makelele block was awarded to RED, a local subsidiary of US-based Symbion Power, the ministry said. The Idjwi block went to another U.S. company, Winds Exploration and Production LLC. The Lwandjofu block was won by Canadian company Alfajiri Energy.
The production sharing contracts will be signed within 15 days, said Hydrocarbons Minister Didier Budimbu. He said he hoped the Symbion Power block would start production in 2024.
Congo hopes to emulate neighboring Rwanda and use large amounts of methane gas under the lake to generate electricity that can be used to make fertilizer and cement. It could also be used for domestic cooking.
Symbion Power CEO Paul Hinks said production next year could be possible "if all goes well."
He said the process required taking saturated gas from the lake water more than 400 meters below the surface.
The gas block auction was part of a licensing round that included 27 onshore oil blocks. Some of the oil blocks were located in the Congo rainforest and peatlands, which raised environmental concerns.
Budimbu said the tender for the oil blocks was due to close on January 29, but that he was considering extending the deadline to allow more blocks to be awarded.