A team from Oxford and Durham Universities have made a huge sighting in Tanzania that has developed a brand new way of finding helium. Working with Norwegian firm Helium One, the scientists found a “world-class” helium gas field in the Tanzanian East African Rift Valley, where volcanoes push helium from deep rocks and into shallower gas fields.
The gas was discovered by using the same expertise from oil and gas exploration to look into how helium was generated underground, in an attempt to understand where it would accumulate. They found that volcanic activity provides the huge amounts of heat that is needed to push the gas out of ancient, helium-bearing rocks.
We use about 8Bcf per year, and the world’s largest helium supplier holds only 24 Bcf. Professor Chris Ballentine from the University of Oxford’s department of Earth sciences said: “This is a game changer for the future security of society’s helium needs and similar finds in the future may not be far away.”
Helium might be best known as the gas that keeps party balloons in the air but the gas’s extremely low boiling point allows it to serve a range of other important purposes; such as in MRI scanners for medicine and nuclear power.
Time back, scarcity of the live-saving gas had therefore flustered scientists who worried that we might run out. The only way to find the gas has been by chance – turning it up while drilling for oil and gas – and if it is let out into the atmosphere it floats up and into space.
In an attempt to conserve it, doctors had called for a ban on using helium for frivolous activities like party balloons and the cost has surged up to 500% in the last 15 years, as researchers struggle to find more of it.
But today, it seems Scientists have made a breakthrough in a global shortage of helium – potentially saving millions of lives in the process. As professor Jon Gluyas from Durham University’s department of earth sciences states: “The find is a vital way of replenishing the supply; we have to keep finding more, it’s not renewable or replaceable,” he said.
To whom it may concern…
The planet we live in faces dire consequences if people all over the world continue to consume finite resources at the current rate. Population growth is exerting ever increasing pressure on food production, energy, mineral reserves, biodiversity and water whilst the impact of climate change is already being felt.
Innovative ways should be researched and adopted in order to preserve one of the world’s natural but dwindling resources.