10/17/2009, 00.00
CHINA - TIBET
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Tibet: huge methane reservoir discovered under ice

It could provide energy independence for China. But the methane hydrates, also known as "ice that burns", are also one of the most polluting agents in the world.

Beijing (AsiaNews / Agencies) - In the tundra of Tibet “the secret to energy independence for China is hidden, opening up the road to environmentally sustainable development without oil." This was declared yesterday a representative of the Chinese Ministry for Land and Resources, who explained: "Under the ice of Tibet and Qinghai our geologists have found the largest underground reservoir of methane hydrates”. The fuel, known as "ice that burns" is characteristic of the Chinese underground, in shape and thickness, it looks like solidified water. But if it is burned, it releases clean energy; methane is indeed a clean fuel that emits carbon dioxide and water. As a natural gas it can be transported through pipes, by ships or trucks.

According to the ministry, this is the most important geological discovery to have been made in China since 1959, when they found some oil deposits. The energy value of the estimated new supply of "ice that burns" is equivalent to 255.5 billion barrels of crude oil; approximately, 200 times the domestic production of oil. Immediately after the announcement, the Shanghai market witnessed the value of the energy company shares sky rocket.

But some scientists warn of the danger connected to hydrates: If released into the air, in fact, they cause pollution 25 times that of carbon dioxide. Currently, the reserve is protected by the natural ice that covers it, but the gradual melting of the perennial ice caps is likely to release its destructive power. Professor Qingbai Wu, deputy director of the state laboratory of Lanzhou, calls it "the most serious concern for the global climate. When most people talk about greenhouse gas emissions from China, they are talking about cars and factories ... but methane hydrates, if they do exist in Tibet in a huge quantity, actually pose the biggest threat”.

 

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