Taiwan discovers gas hydrate in South China Sea

Taipei, March 13 (CNA) A Taiwanese oceanic research team has discovered gas hydrate deposits in waters south of the Pratas Islands during a recent mission to the South China Sea, a marine geophysicist overseeing the project said Wednesday.

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

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

Further investigation, however, will 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 30 kilometers southeast of the Pratas, he said.

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

Another discovery made during the voyage of exploration involves the South China Sea's strong ability to absorb carbon.

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

The carbon-absorbing ability will increase 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, the Philippines, Vietnam, Malaysia and Brunei.

Taiwan currently controls the Pratas Islands and Taiping Island -- the largest islet in the Spratlys archipelago.

Focus Taiwan

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