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Traces of gas hydrate detected in waters west of Luzon, Mindoro

GEOLOGISTS from the University of the Philippines-Diliman said they have discovered evidence of gas hydrates in the Manila Trench, to the west of Luzon and Mindoro, signaling the potential presence of an alternative energy source.

In a statement on Wednesday, the UP College of Science National Institute of Geological Sciences said the potential resource is estimated to be present over 15,400 square kilometers, or about the size of Palawan.

They estimate the substances to be around 200 to 500 meters below the sea floor.

The researchers were identified as Elisha Jane Maglalang, Leo Armada, Madeleine Santos, Karla May Sayen, and Carla Dimalanta.

The institute said gas hydrates are ice mostly infused with methane.

“Because gas hydrates contain huge amounts of carbon and methane, they can be a great alternative energy source,” the institute said.

It warned, however, of geologic and environmental hazards because gas hydrates “are unstable solids” which could “dissociate and melt when the conditions in which they form change,” usually during earthquakes.

The area explored contains the Manila Trench, responsible for numerous earthquakes in western Luzon. The researchers said the gas hydrates could agitate the sea floor when they melt — “possibly triggering submarine landslides and tsunamis.”

“Therefore, it is essential to determine the distribution and stability conditions of gas hydrates offshore of the Philippines,” the institute said. — Sheldeen Joy Talavera