Huge helium reserve discovered in Tanzania
Researchers in the United Kingdom and Norway have discovered a huge new helium field located in Tanzania’s East African Rift Valley.
The rift valley is a continental rift system characterized by lots of moving tectonic plates. The researchers think that heat from volcanic activity in the region has helped release the gas from ancient rocks, where it had been trapped.
Even though helium is one of the most abundant elements in the universe, there’s concern that it may be running out here on Earth.The discovery of the cache could ease the current shortage of the valuable, rare gas. This is good news for more than just filling up balloons. Helium is used in MRI scanners, welding, and nuclear energy production.
The team estimates that just one part of the reserve in Tanzania could be as large as 54 billion cubic feet.
“To put this discovery into perspective, global consumption of helium is about 8 billion cubic feet (BCf) per year and the United States Federal Helium Reserve, which is the world’s largest supplier, has a current reserve of just 24.2 BCf,” said University of Oxford’s Chris Ballentine, a professor with the Department of Earth Sciences.
Helium is typically retrieved after it comes bubbling up from deep within the earth during oil and gas exploration.
This is the first time ever that researchers have tracked and located a helium gas field.
The researchers teamed up with the Norway-based helium exploration company Helium One on the discovery.
“This is an outstanding example of industry and academia working together closely to deliver real value to society. The impact of this and expected future helium discoveries will secure supply for the medical scanning and other industries,” said Prof. Jon Gluyas, department of earth sciences of Durham University.