Monday, September 19, 2016

Science & Technology: Drilling for Helium Could be Profitable Side-Line for Geothermal Power Plants

Tanzanian Volcanoes May Hoard Helium Ready for the Taking (EOS)

Sweet spots of volcanic heat that are not too close to active eruptions may hold the world's richest reservoirs of the scientifically and medically important gas helium.

A team led by Peter Barry, a postdoctoral researcher in the Department of Earth Sciences at University of Oxford, U.K., recently found evidence for unusually rich helium deposits across the Rift Valley. One apparent reservoir of the gas offers the unheard-of helium concentration of more than 10% by volume. At sites around the valley, the researchers more commonly found helium in the 1.5%–2.5% range.

“In Tanzania we can drill a well to target just helium. This is … unique—no one else is doing this,” said Barry.

On the basis of the findings, Barry and his colleagues suggest that most deposits of concentrated helium gas occupy a Goldilocks zone that lies at a “just right” distance from volcanoes.

(Thanks to GRC Member Marcelo Lippmann, Staff Scientist (retired) at Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory for the submission.)