Fri, Nov 12, 2004 - Page 2 News List

Evidence of methane gas reserves found off Taiwan

By Chiu Yu-Tzu  /  STAFF REPORTER

Recent research in Taiwan's southwestern seas have found strong evidence of an abundance of methane gas, trapped within rock deep below the seafloor, scientists from the National Science Council said yesterday.

According to Liu Char-shine (劉家瑄), a marine geology and geophysics professor at National Tai-wan University (NTU), researchers have found high concentration of methane at many spots in an area covering 20,000km2 of waters off Taiwan's southwest coast.

The seismic profile in the area, from 50m offshore of Kaohsiung to the Pratas, shows the existence of a bottom simulation reflector (BSR) that marks the bottom boundary of the hydrate's zone.

"BSR is a strong indicator of the presence of gas hydrate, which has been regarded as one of new energy resources in the 21st century. Research projects with scientists in other countries should be promoted in these areas to gain useful reference for Taiwan's future energy policy," Liu said.

Gas hydrate is found in sub-oceanic sediments in the polar regions and in continental slope sediments, where pressure and temperature conditions combine to make it stable.

In many parts of the continental margins along the Western Pacific region, gas hydrate has been detected. The South China Sea, containing oil and gas resources, has become a source of disputed among countries surrounding it.

Liu said that the area being explored by Taiwanese scientists is undoubtedly administered by Taiwan's government.

"Taiwan imports 97 percent of the energy it needs. If we have more alternatives, national security will be strengthened," Liu said.

Many other countries share the same idea. According to Liu, growing concern about oil supplies has led many countries, including the US, Canada, Japan, India and European nations to increase scientific funding to try to understand gas hydrate and the role it plays in not only the future of fuels but also the global climate.

Gas hydrate contains highly concentrated methane, which has a much greater effect on global warming than an equal amount of carbon dioxide, with global warming potentials around 20 times greater than those of carbon dioxide.

"The association between the abundance of gas hydrate and the unique geological structure in Taiwan's southwestern seas has interested scientists in many other countries," Liu said.

Scientists from NTU, National Cheng Kung University, National Central University and National Taiwan Ocean University are work-ing on a four-year gas hydrate research program launched this year by the Central Geological Survey.

At a conference held last week in Taipei, foreign participants expressed a willingness to work with Taiwanese researchers to explore energy reserves in the Western Pacific margins.

Council Deputy Chairman Liao Chun-chen (廖俊臣) said the council would continue to strong back marine science research, although the real exploitation of methane in the southwestern seas is still far off.

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