KINSHASA, Jan 16 (Reuters) – The Democratic Republic of Congo has granted licenses for three natural gas blocks in Lake Kivu on its eastern border, with some production expected to start next year, the Ministry of Hydrocarbons said on Monday. .

The Makelele block was awarded to RED, a local subsidiary of US-based Symbion Power, the ministry said. The Idjwi block went to another US company, Winds Exploration and Production LLC. The Lwandjofu block was won by Canada-based Alfajiri Energy.

Production sharing contracts will be signed within 15 days, hydrocarbons minister Didier Budimbu told Reuters. He said he expected the Symbion Power block to start production in 2024.

Congo hopes to emulate neighboring Rwanda and use vast amounts of methane below the lake to generate electricity that can be used to make fertilizer and cement. It can also be used for cooking at home.

Symbion Power chief executive Paul Hinks told Reuters next year’s production could be possible “if all goes well.”

He said the process required extracting gas that is saturated in 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 in Congo’s rainforest and peat bogs, raising environmental concerns.

Budimbu said bidding for oil blocks was due to end on January 29, but was considering postponing the deadline to allow for the allocation of more blocks.

Reporting by Sonia Rolley; Edited by Edward McAllister and Bernadette Baum

Our standards: Thomson Reuters Trust Principles.