African Press International (API)

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Vast helium deposit found in Tanzania

Posted by African Press International on June 29, 2016

KEVIN J. KELLEY -1 | Jumatano, Juni 29, 2016

A vast field of helium has been discovered in a section of the Great Rift Valley in Tanzania, scientists are reporting.

The scarce gas, which is used in high-tech devices such as MRI medical scanners and radiation monitors, is currently priced at about $70 per 1000 cubic feet.

A team of British and Norwegian researchers estimate that the deposit they located in Tanzania could contain about 54 billion cubic feet of helium, which puts the potential value of the find at more than $3.5 billion.

The discovery was reported on Monday in the US journal Popular Science and is being formally presented at the Goldschmidt geology conference taking place this week in Yokohama, Japan.

“This is a game changer for the future security of society’s helium needs,” University of Oxford earth scientist Chris Ballentine said in a statement.

“We sampled helium gas (and nitrogen) just bubbling out of the ground in the Tanzanian East African Rift valley,” Prof Ballentine added.

The amount of the gas so far found in Tanzania could fill 1.2 million MRI scanners, he said.

LARGEST SUPPLIER

“To put this discovery into perspective,” Prof Ballentine continued, “global consumption of helium is about 8 billion cubic feet per year and the United States Federal Helium Reserve, which is the world’s largest supplier, has a current reserve of just 24.2 billion cubic feet.”

The Tanzania find could thus be sufficient to meet global demand for nearly seven years, and may be more than twice as large as the US helium reserve.

Other parts of East Africa’s Rift Valley may contain additional deposits of helium, geologist Jon Gluyas of Durham University in the UK told Live Science, a website that also reported the discovery.

Helium accumulates inside rock in Earth’s crust over billions of years. The gas remains trapped in the rock until released by intense volcanic heat such as in the geothermally active regions of East Africa’s Rift Valley, Prof Gluyas explained in his comments to Live Science.

The researchers said the Tanzania discovery results from a new method of searching for helium.

End. Nation news Kenya

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