A transformation has happened in the East African nation of Rwanda, where the gorgeous misty mountains and the mysterious waters of Lake Kivu are part of one of the most stable countries in the continent. Located on the flanks of a geological province where new discoveries of oil and gas have been made, Rwanda could have even more transformations in its future.
Will discoveries to East Africa be a blessing or will they usher in the notorious “resource curse”? Check what you know about Rwanda and what is planned.
Brief Profile of Rwanda
Rwanda, the “Land of a Thousand Hills,” is home to endangered mountain gorillas, many of which live in the Volcanoes National Park. Characterized by gorgeous mist-filled valleys and verdant slopes, the hills have a magical quality.
The capital city, Kigali, with one million inhabitants, is nestled in the hills. It is the governmental and financial center, with a number of office complexes and hotels.
While Rwanda is still well known for the genocide that occurred in 1994, what is less well-known is the fact that the government has achieved an impressive level of stability. The population is 12 million, of which only 29 percent live in urban centers. The economy consists primarily of subsistence-level farming by small-holder owners. Because of Rwanda’s relatively high population density, there is a need to find a way to diversify the economy and create more efficient farms and to develop mineral resources.
Petroleum Exploration in Rwanda
Interest in the hydrocarbon potential of Rwanda has intensified in the last five years after the discovery of significant reserves in Tanzania, Kenya, and Uganda. Sedimentary rocks in Rwanda primarily consist of sandstones, alternating with shales. There are numerous granitic intrusions, which has resulted in significant areas of metamorphic rocks. According to Schluter in the Geological Atlas of Africa, Rwanda’s sedimentary sequences indicate a former shallow marine environment, typified by high energy. (Schluter, 2008).
There are sedimentary megasequences in the Miocene that correspond to tectonic events. Miocene extension and volcanism resulted in possible fluvial sediments. Later, a Pleistocene eruption produced Lake Kivu.
Currently, Tertiary Rift exploration has resulted in new discoveries. The new Ngamia Discovery extends the Lake Albert Play into the Lake Turkana area. It is similar in size to the entire North Sea Graben system. There are more than 80 prospects and leads mapped from seismic and other data.
It is important to note that Lake Kivu’s methane gas resources are currently being partially exploited by Rwanda and also the Congo Democratic Republic, which shares the lake and the resources. Lake Kivu, contains approximately 60 billion cubic meters of methane and 300 billion cubic meters of carbon dioxide. These gases are generated from the decomposition of organic material and volcanic activity (Rosen, 2015). Extracting the gas has two benefits: first, it can generate electricity, and second, a dangerous and destructive natural eruption/explosion can be avoided.
What lies beneath Lake Kivu, and the potential for significant petroleum accumulations in the underlying sediments is a question that has been fascinating geologists for several years, and now has gained the attention of the region.
Rwanda took the spotlight at the 7th East African Petroleum Conference and Exhibition in March 2015. Bolstered by new discoveries in Kenya, Tanzania, and Uganda, as well as significant shows in neighboring Burundi, geologists signaled reasons for optimism, and pointed to the similarities of the geological provinces. Thanks to extensive preliminary work by several companies, including Black Swan Energy Services, the Rwandan government has supported further exploration. Here is an overview:
Lake Kivu is on a hydrocarbon fairway (western arm of the rift valley) that starts with 1.5 billion barrel oil field under and adjacent to Lake Albert approx. 300 kilometers to the north. To the south is Lake Tanganyika with oil seeps. Lake Kivu has equally encouraging SAR slicks. In addition, excellent seismic results on Lake Edward 100 kilometers to the North will result in 3 wells being drilled there this year by Dominion Resources.
While the Kivu basins may not be as large as other basins in East Africa, this in no way minimizes the oil potential of this Basin. The Albertine Basin is estimated to have generated well in excess of 100 billion barrels of oil within its confines. Tullow and Heritage are estimating a 3% to 10% trapping ratio for this resource and have already publically stated they have found 1.5 billion recoverable barrels of oil and have not yet scratched the enormous potential of this area. (Vangold, 2009)
The most up to date and extensive work done so far in Lake Kivu is from Black Swan Energy Services. In February 2015, BSES was hired by the Ministry of Natural Resources, Rwanda to review the existing data, make a study on the HC potential of the sediments underneath of Lake Kivu.
With the dual resources of methane from Lake Kivu, and the potential for Albertine-type petroleum reservoirs, Rwanda could transform itself into an important oil producer in a near-term time frame.
Tender for Seismic Acquisition and Processing
The government of Rwanda, located in east-central Africa, has completed two projects that deal with exploring for oil and gas in the areas that are most prospective for the kinds of discoveries now being made in Tanzania, Kenya, and Uganda. Now, a third project has been authorized, which involves seismic data acquisition and processing in Lake Kivu, Rwanda. The objective is to acquire and process multichannel seismic data in order to map the sediments beneath Lake Kivu, where methane seeps and near-surface accumulations are already being used for energy generation. Now, the goal is to evaluate the sediments beneath Lake Kivu for their hydrocarbon potential.
The first step for interested individuals and companies is to submit an Expression of Interest by March 28 at 17:00 pm to the Ministry of Natural Resources Office in Nyarugenge Pension Plaza, KN 3rd Road, KIGALI. The details are in Section V of the Tender Notice No. 24/15-16/MINIRENA. http://education.aapg.org/rwanda/tender.pdf
Interview with Eva Peza, Black Swan Energy Services
1. What is your name and your relationship to Rwanda?
My company is Black Swan Energy Services (BSES), an Oklahoma based company. BSES is an Advisor/Consultant for the Government of Rwanda
2. Where is Rwanda in terms of geological settings? What makes it positive for oil and gas exploration? Have there been any exploratory wells? Any shows of oil and gas?
It is in The East African Rift System, which has had a lot of discoveries such as in Kenya, Uganda, Tanzania, etc. BSES made a study last year that indicates a lot of potential reserves. There are no wells yet. It is in the appraisal/ exploration phase.
3. What is the government of Rwanda doing to stimulate interest in oil and gas exploration?
Has organized studies and is investing itself for exploration program. It is also inviting companies to participate in this tender and also has put oil and gas regulations in place.
4. What is the purpose of the tender?
Seismic data acquisition and processing
5. What are some of the main elements included in the tender?
The main elements are the technical requirements for offshore seismic acquisition and processing. The tender will come after. In this first stage the companies need to express the interest to take part in the tender.
6. When will the tender take place?
In about two months from now.
If they don't express interest by March 28, by providing the requested documentation, they are not qualified for the tender.
The Road Ahead
With a revitalized governmental structure, political stability, and a willingness to invest in reconnaissance work, Rwanda has positioned itself to fully assess the oil and gas potential of the nation. The timing is excellent, with a temporary downturn freeing up resources, both in terms of expertise and equipment. In the future, the individuals who established expertise and also who facilitated knowledge transfer to help develop the human capital within the nation, will be in an excellent position to lead projects and forge new ideas.
CIA World Factbook Entry
Rosen, J.W. (2015) Lake Kivu’s Great Gas Gamble. MIT Technology Review. April 16, 2015. https://www.technologyreview.com/s/536656/lake-kivus-great-gas-gamble/
Schluter, T. (2008). Geographical Atlas of Africa, With Notes on Stratigraphy, Tectonics, Economic Geoogy, Geohazards, Geosites, and Geoscientific Education Of Each Country. Berlin: Springer-Verlag.
Vangold. (2009) Vangold Granted 90 Day Extension for Lake Kivu.