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July 22, 2017

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German vessel arrives to help look for gas hydrates

TAIPEI--A German research ship arrived in Kaohsiung Saturday to join with Taiwan in exploring for gas hydrates in the waters off the country's southwestern coast.

The ship, "Sonne," docked at the Port of Kaohsiung, where local experts led by National Taiwan University oceanography professor Saulwood Lin and researchers from the Leibniz Institute of Marine Sciences in Germany shared ideas on the potential energy source.

"Gas hydrates may be an option as an alternative energy source, but there is a long way to go (in developing gas hydrates)," Lo Ching-hua, a geology specialist and vice president of National Taiwan University, said.

Interest in this new energy source comes at a time when Taiwan is debating its energy future, especially amid mounting demands for the abolition of nuclear power, which currently provides nearly 20 percent of Taiwan's electricity.

Gas hydrates are a frozen mixture of methane — a natural gas — and water, which are usually found in frozen soil in the Arctic or on the continental slope. Natural gas hydrates are seen as a potentially important energy source in this century.

Studies have pointed to the possibility of widespread gas hydrate reserves in waters off Taiwan's southwestern coast, enough to supply Taiwan for over 50 years.

Taiwan, however, has lacked the professional equipment needed to obtain samples of gas hydrates in its offshore waters, researchers said.

The "Sonne," carrying 25 scientists and equipment that use video images to identify gas hydrates in the sea, was set to embark on a one-month mission Sunday.

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