Sat, Mar 16, 2013 - Page 3 News List

Team finds South China Sea gas hydrate deposits

Staff writer, with CNA

A Taiwanese oceanic research team has discovered gas hydrate deposits in waters south of the Pratas Islands (Dongsha Islands, 東沙群島) during a recent mission to the South China Sea, a marine geophysicist overseeing the project said.

The discovery was made during a 19-day exploration aboard the 2,700 tonne deep-sea research vessel Ocean Researcher 5 that ended on March 8. Natural gas hydrates are considered a potential energy resource, but an economical extraction method has proven elusive.

Hsu Shu-kun of National Central University’s College of Earth Science said the existence of the gas hydrate deposits was proven through analysis of seismic reflection and sub-bottom profiling data.

Further investigation would be required to determine the extent of the deposits, as some of the natural gas might have leaked due to undersea landslides, Hsu said.

The mission also discovered an undersea volcanic group about 30km southeast of the Pratas, he said.

The group, which comprises more than 60 volcanoes covering an area of 3,000km2, probably dates back to the Miocene period, he added.

Another discovery made during the voyage involves the South China Sea’s ability to absorb carbon.

Under normal weather conditions, the sea’s surface water can absorb 260,000 tonnes of carbon dioxide per day, which is 35 percent of Taiwan’s daily carbon emissions, Hsu said.

The sea’s carbon-absorbing ability increases under the influence of strong weather fronts, he said.

The South China Sea, which is believed to sit atop vast deposits of natural gas and oil, is claimed in whole or in part by Taiwan, China, Vietnam, Malaysia, Brunei and the Philippines.

Taiwan currently controls the Pratas Islands and Itu Aba (Taiping Island, 太平島) — the largest of the Spratly Islands (Nansha Islands, 南沙群島).

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