German-Taiwanese project to study gas hydrates on seabed

Staff writer, with CNA

Wed, Mar 27, 2013 - Page 4

A German-Taiwanese research project will study gas hydrates on the seabed off southern Taiwan with a view to developing a potentially rich energy resource, the German Institute Taipei said yesterday.

The research expedition, which starts on Sunday and is scheduled to last for five weeks, will explore and examine the ice-like mineral that is usually found on the ocean floor at depths of between 500m and 2,000m, the institute said.

Hydrates contain gases, such as hydrocarbons, that attach themselves inside the symmetrical cages of water molecules to form hydrate crystals.

“Interest in the extraction of gas hydrates is high all around the world. However, many fundamental questions about gas hydrate deposits remain,” said Christian Berndt, the research team’s chief geoscientist.

The project also aims to help definine the role of plate tectonics in the formation of gas hydrates, which makes the selected site in the South China Sea ideal since it is where the Eurasian tectonic plate and the Philippine Sea plate converge, the institute said.

Berndt said the team will use the latest geophysical techniques, which can create 3D images of the subsurface, to get estimates of how much gas hydrate is on the seabed in the area.

The technology can generate data that is “10 times better than before,” he said.

It could also help to predict the impact of hydrate mining on the stability of the ocean floor, he added.

The joint project will begin on the German research ship Sonne and will be followed by a second excursion in June on a brand new Taiwanese research vessel, the institute said.

Germany’s Federal State Ministry of Research will provide funding of 1.2 million euros (NT$46 million) for the project, while Taiwan will contribute 300,000 euros, the institute said.