Natural Resources, 2011, 2, 18-21
doi:10.4236/nr.2011.21003 Published Online March 2011 (
Copyright © 2011 SciRes. NR
Run of River Bulk Hydroelectric Generation from
the Congo River without a Conventional Dam
1Thomas J. Hammons, 2Pathmanathan Naidoo, 3Lawrence Musaba
1International Practices for Energy Development and Power Generation, University of Glasgow, Glasgow, UK; 2Eskom, South Af-
rica; 3Coordination Center Manager, Southern African Power Pool, Harare, Zimbabwe.
Received November 17th, 2010; revised January 19th, 2011; accepted January 28th, 2011.
The paper discusses harvesting the Congo River for bulk hydroelectric generation based on run of river, low head gen-
eration technology, as employed at the existing Inga 2 power station in the Democratic Republic of Congo. The evolu-
tionary approach builds on existing infrastructure. The results show that the footprint is much smaller than that which
employs a conventional dam. The environmental impact is minimized. These collectively will contribute to lower capital
costs. In summary, 10 000 cm³/sec of constant river flow will produce 5 000 MW of base power. On average, the con-
stant recorded flow of the river is 30 000 cm³/sec and a total of 15 000 MW of base power generation is possible.
Keywords: Hydroelectric Power Generation, River Engineering, Environmental Impact, Hydropower Development in
1. Introduction
The proposed Western Power Corridor Project is de-
signed to tap the naturally renewable hydroelectric en-
ergy from the river networks located on the west coast of
Southern Africa. The project was unanimously supported
by the joint sitting of the Executive Committee of the
Southern African Power Pool as a SADC/NEPAD prior-
ity project that will contribute to the economic renais-
sance of the African Continent [1]. Under the auspices of
the Southern African Power Pool, five national state en-
terprises were tasked to lead and develop the project,
namely, SNEL (DRC), ENE (Angola), Nampower (Na-
mibia), BPC (Botswana), and Eskom (South Africa). All
the five national state enterprises have equal contribu-
tions to the project and own 20% of the share capital of
the joint venture company, WESTCOR.
The naturally renewable hydroelectric sources are lo-
cated on the Congo River in the Democratic Republic of
Congo, on the Medico Quanza River in Angola and on
the lower Kunene River in Northern Namibia.
To commence the project, SNEL have submitted spe-
cifically for the INGA 3 Power Station site for the pro-
posed WESTCOR development. SNEL owns and oper-
ates the two existing power stations, Inga 1 and 2, with a
combined output of 1 770 MW. Inga 3 is the next phase
of the development of the Inga site, with a rated output of
3 500 MW. Here water is extracted from the common
Inga 1 and 2 pool and produce the 3 500 MW at a head
of 60 m.
Further work by SNC Lavalin of Canada who have
conducted the feasibility study under a CIDA grant have
advised that on repositioning the underground tunnels
further into the river bed, then a head of 100 m is
achieved with a pipeline length of 9km and a further 4
320 MW could be generated. Additional studies are in
progress and an aspiration is a power station of 10 000
MW at Inga 3; either one station at 10 000 MW or an
Inga 3 and an Inga 4 at 5 000 MW each. The final phase
of the Inga site development is Grand Inga, with a poten-
tial rated output of some 40 000 MW. In total, the Congo
River has a full 100 000 MW capability and all potential
sites need to be investigated and loaded into forward
generation plans.
ENE has tabled that the total hydroelectric potential of
Angola exploitable using existing technologies is ap-
proximately 8 200 MW. This comprises 6 700 MW from
the middle Kwanza River in northern Angola (440MW
developed to date), 968.4 MW from the Catumbela River
in central Angola (79.4MW developed to date), and 311
MW from the Kunene River in southern Angola (40
MWdeveloped to date).
ENE expressed interest in developing this resource and
exporting the energy to WESTCOR and other customers
in SAPP. On the lower Kunene end and towards North-
Run of River Bulk Hydroelectric Generation from the Congo River without a Conventional Dam 19
ern Namibia, Nampower will also participate and con-
tribute supplies especially during peak periods.
Background material for developing energy in the Af-
rican continent and SAPP is given in References [2-5].
2. Inga SITE: Energy Development and
Power Gen-Eration
Given Data: The Congo River Hydrology at the Inga Site
Average River Flow: 42 000 m³/sec
Seasonal Constant Flow Range: ~30 000 m³/sec
Inter Annual Module: 40 000 m³/sec
Noted Minimum Low Water Flow: 21 400 m³/sec in
Noted Maximum Flood: 83 400 m³/sec in
Noted Exceptional Flood: 92 000 m³/sec
The data is presented graphically in Figure 1.
The given capacity data for the existing power stations
are provided in Table 1.
There are two approaches for the harvesting of elec-
trical energy from the potential energy of the river. The
first approach can be described as medium head potential
energy harvesting driven by water continuity from the
run of the river and the second approach can be described
as high head potential energy harvesting driven by water
continuity from a large capacity storage dam.
The first approach is in general much simpler and less
costly as compared to the second approach. The first ap-
proach should be fully exploited before commencement
of the second approach. The revenues earned from the
first approach will be a valuable source of finance to
support the development of the second approach.
2.1. Recommendation 1
WESTCOR recommends that we fully exploit and de-
velop the medium head potential energy harvesting as
driven by water continuity from the run of the river.
The hydraulic power that is naturally available at the
Inga site is defined by (1):
P = g ρ Q H (1)
where P: hydraulic power in watts
g: acceleration due to gravity = 9.81 m²/sec
ρ: liquid density in kg/m³
Q: flow in m³/sec
H: potential head in m
For the case of water, ρ = 1000 kg/m³; then the equation
P = 9.81 Q H kilowatts (2)
and the electrical energy produced is given by:
W = P t η f kilowatt-hours (3)
where t: operating time in hours
η: efficiency of the turbine-generator assembly,
Figure 1. Typi cal river flow for January to December.
Table 1. Existing Power Station Capacity Data.
Station Head Flow Rate Capacity
Inga 1 50m 780 m³/sec 351 MW
Inga 2 58m 2 800 m³/sec 1 424 MW
Total 3 580 m³/sec 1 775 MW
usually between 0.5 to 0.9
f: coefficient to allow for seasonal variations to
run of river flows
Applying the above equations to the standard data
from the river hydrology records, we have the following
scenarios [6,7]:
2.1.1. Scen ario 1: Power Potential at Aver age River
Flow Rate
At the average river flow rate of 42 000 m³/sec and using
the same head as Inga 1 and 2 of 50 m; we have:
Power Potential of the River in Run of River Mode =
9.81 × 42 000 × 50 kilowatts
P = 20 601 MW (4)
2.1.2. Scenario 2: Power Potential at Average River
Flow Rate but Allowing for Continuous Gen-
eration at Ing a 1 and In ga 2
Power Potential of the River in Run of River Mode =
9.81 × [42 000-3 580] × 50
P = 18 845 MW is available in addition to the full pro-
duction at Inga 1 and 2. (5)
2.1.3. Scenario 3: Power Potential at Constant River
Flow Rate and Allowing for Continuous Gen-
eration at Inga 1 and 2
Power Potential of the River in Run of River Mode =
9.81 × [30 000 3 580] × 50
P = 12 959 MW is available in addition to the full pro-
duction at Inga 1 and 2. (6)
This lower figure of 30 000 m³/sec at constant flow rate
can be considered an upper bound of what is possible at
opyright © 2011 SciRes. NR
Run of River Bulk Hydroelectric Generation from the Congo River without a Conventional Dam
run of river application; fully allowing for Inga 1 and 2
continuous operation.
Over the last few years, two separate designs have
been proposed for the Inga 3 power station. The first was
prepared on the basis of an evolutionary design approach
to continue along the Inga 2 open channel design; here
more water was brought into the holding pools and an
Inga 3, a 3 600 MW station was proposed; 8 machines at
450 MW to yield a total of 3 600 MW, using 6 117 m³/
sec and with a natural head of 60 m. This was the Inga 3
allocated to WESTCOR for development.
A separate study by SNC Lavalin of Montreal pre-
pared another sitting of Inga 3 with a collection of un-
derground tunnels feeding the machines. Water is extr-
acted at a point above the holding pools and is fed di-
rectly into the machines; with a natural head of 100 m.
Here the planned output was 4 320 MW.
Both the 3 600 MW and the 4 320 MW design options
are available for development as the river has the capac-
ity to support both. The total is 7 920 MW and is well
within the constant flow of the river. For both options,
the designers should be challenged to increase both ca-
pacities to 5 000 MW such that even at 10 000 MW, we
still have a gap to the 12 959 MW first boundary limit.
Any drop in water flow will be reflected in an associated
drop in energy sent out and this will vary with time and
is manageable with system reserves.
2.2. Recommendation 2
The open channel design based on the Inga 2 concept is
named the Inga 3 Power Station.
Planned Capacity: 3 600 MW; 8 machines each of 450
MW rating; 60 m natural head
Design Challenge: 5 000 MW
2.3. Recommendation 3
The SNC Lavalin Study providing for a power station of
capacity of 4 320 MW and based on a collection of un-
derground tunnels at a natural head of 100m be named
Inga 4. This would be similar to Eskom Drakensberg
Power Station located in Bergville, South Africa [8].
Planned Capacity: 4 320 MW; 100 m natural head.
Design Challenge: 5 000 MW.
The sitting of both Inga 3 and Inga 4 is at different
points on the banks of the Congo River and work can
commence on sites simultaneously. There is a large physi-
cal separation between both power stations.
2.3.1. Scena ri o 4: The Co nventional D am
Preliminary analysis shows that the installation of a con-
ventional dam in the path of the river flow would have
the following potential impact on the natural environ-
1) The river flow is arrested and no water flows into
the ocean. At present, the river flows for many kilome-
ters into the ocean and thus fresh water is displaced
gradually with the salt water of the ocean. Halting fresh
water flow would have the reverse effect; the salt water
would intrude into the gap left by the fresh water stop-
page and the salt water would destroy all life dependent
on fresh water. The intrusion of the salt water would be
some 50 km inland and this would cause irreversible en-
vironmental harm to all living matter and organisms at
the river mouth.
2) Arresting the Congo River with its high and regular
flows would have the effect of pushing back the water
levels on the river itself. Much of Kinshasa and neighbor-
ring Congo Brazzaville through which the river passes
would be submerged by the rising water levels. Prelimi-
nary analysis of the land contours show a flat profile in
the immediate vicinity of the river and this would create
a massive lake that could stretch across Central Africa.
It is thus preferred that much of the river must con-
tinue to flow as naturally as possible; keeping the impact
on the environment to an absolute minimum. Once we
have exploited the full potential of the run of river capa-
bility, one could consider storage for those times when
the river flow is much higher than the normal constant
flow. This would afford a further development based
more on water retention only when such time permits and
then a further development of power generation capabil-
ity as in stored water when available. More work is nec-
essary to develop the concept of Grand Inga Cascades
rather than Grand Inga Dam. In the case of water cas-
cades, the same water could be employed several times
for power generation before being released back into the
river. With sound engineering, much more output can be
extracted with no impact on the environment.
3. Conclusions
The shareholder benefits from Inga 3 development sus-
tains and in summary, we have:
1) An annual income to the DRC Government of USD
500 m for the use of the water as primary energy.
2) Given natural, renewable energy employment, this
annual revenue flow to the DRC Government will occur
every year, indefinitely. In two years, this equates to
USD 1 billion; a substantial contribution that can go to-
wards developing the schools, hospitals, communities…
towards a better quality of life for all the people of the
3) The delivery of the world’s lowest cost wholesale
tariff to all the five customers as in SNEL, ENE, Nam-
power, BPC and Eskom.
4) Payback of interest on capital and capital debt;
within 10 years WESTCOR will enjoy debt free assets
worth USD 5 billion.
opyright © 2011 SciRes. NR
Run of River Bulk Hydroelectric Generation from the Congo River without a Conventional Dam
Copyright © 2011 SciRes. NR
5) Shareholder dividends are declared once all assets
are free; WESTCOR will continue to operate as a com-
pany for neither profit nor loss.
6) Payments for servitude concessions and real estate
rates and taxes.
7) Payments for contracting services for operating and
8) The WESTCOR annual revenues of USD 2.12 bil-
lion is effectively employed to pay for the assets, to pay
for the primary energy, to pay for the operating expenses
and in summary, is given back to all the shareholders.
This project of collective development represents the
best investment for each shareholder and will go a long
way to making a contribution to the economic renais-
sance of SADC and Continental Africa.
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