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Situation of Flammable Ice in China

As the largest developing country with large areas of oceans in the world, the energy shortage of China is very serious. At present, there is a very large gap between supply and demand of oil and gas resources in China. In 1993, China became net oil importer. China imported more than 40 million tons of oil in 1999. In 2000, China imported nearly 70 million tons of oil. It was expected that the gap between supply and demand of oil would reach 200 million tons in 2010. Therefore, it is urgent to develop new energy sources to meet the requirements of rapid development of China’s economy. There are abundant resources of natural gas hydrate in the seafloor. Its upstream exploration and exploitation technologies can refer to those of the conventional oil and gas for reference. The downstream transportation, utilization and other technologies of the natural gas are very mature. Therefore, strengthening the investigation and evaluation of natural gas hydrate is not only an important measure to carry out the strategy of sustainable development determined by the Central Committee of CPC and the State Council, but also an important way to develop new energy resources for China in the 21st century, improve energy structure, enhance comprehensive national strength and international competitiveness and ensure the economic security.

The research and exploration on natural gas hydrate of China has already made some progress. We have found physical geography marks, BSR, of natural gas hydrate in the Xisha Trough of South China Sea and other sea areas, which indicates there are also natural gas hydrate resources distributed in the sea areas of China. It deserves our further work; at the same time Qingdao Research Institute of Marine Geology has established a natural gas hydrate laboratory of independent intellectual property rights and successfully ignited the natural gas hydrate.

The flammable ice was discovered in the seafloor of China

On April 14th, 2005, China held the ceremony of collecting the specimen of the natural gas hydrate carbonate rock firstly discovered in China in The Geological Museum of China in Beijing.

It was announced that China has found the distribution area of the “Cold Spring” carbonate rock with the largest scale in the world for the first time, which is the important evidence of the existence of “Flammable Ice”, namely natural gas hydrate. The area is about 430 square kilometers.

This distribution area was found during the process of the investigation for natural gas hydrate in the northern continental slope of South China Sea jointly carried out by both the Chinese and German party by the scientific research ship, “Sun”, for the first time. The formation of Cold Spring” carbonate rock is believed to be related to the natural gas hydrate system in the seafloor and the activities of the chemolithotroph communities living near the outlet of the cold spring. During the scientific investigation, a large number of authigenic carbonate rocks were found in the sea area to the north of Dongsha Islands in the northern continental slope of the South China Sea. The depth range is from 550 meters to 650 meters and 750 meters to 800 meters, respectively. Through the observation of seafloor TV and sampling of the TV grab bucket, it was found that there is a large number of tube-type, chimney-type, torus-type, plate-type and block-type authigenic carbonate rocks produced in the sea floor. They lie in the sea floor of alone or abruptly stretch outward from the sediment. The shells of the bivalves coming from the outlet distribute among them in stain pattern. The huge constructions of carbonate rocks stand erect in the sea floor. Their features are similar to those of the “Chemical Reef” found in the marginal sea of Costa Rica and open seas of Oregon of the United States. However, the scale is much larger.

“Flammable Ice” is white or light gray solid crystalline material with the appearance like ice formed by combining natural gas and water molecules. Since 80% to 99.9% of its composition is methane, the formation and distribution of these carbonate rocks record the methane rich fluid types, features, sources, intensity change, the relationships with the hydrate system that may exist in the sea floor and other conditions.

The Chinese and German scientists unanimously recommended naming one structure of the authigenic carbonate rock area as “Kowloon Methane Reef” after the name of Kowloon, Hong Kong, China near the operating area. Among which, “Long” represents China, and “Nine” represents the cooperation of multiple research groups


Ministry of Land and Resources P.R. ChinaDepartment of Land and Resources of Hubei ProvincePeople’s Government of HuanggangHuanggang Municipal Bureau of Land and ResourcesGlobal Geoparks NetworkNational Geopark of China The Geological Museum of ChinaHong Kong UNESCO Global GeoparkShennongjia Global GeoparkTianzhushan Global Geopark




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