Huge helium gas find in east Africa averts medical shortage
Jana ziliripotiwa taarifa kuwa watafiti kutoka chuo kikuu cha Oxford na kile cha Durham kwa ushirikiano na wataalamu wa madini kutoka Norway wamegundua uwepo wa takriban futi bilioni 54 za hifadhi kubwa zaidi duniani ya gesi adimu zaidi ya Helium nchini Tanzania.
Leo June 29 2016 Rais wa Jamhuri ya Muungano wa Tanzania, John Pombe Magufuli kupitia account yake ya twitter amepost akizungumzia ugunduzi huo huku akitoa wito kujipanga katika eneo la mikataba.
“Tunamshukuru Mungu Tanzania tumegundua gesi aina ya Helium(He),wito wangu kwa wachumi,wanasheria na watanzania wote kwa ujumla tujipange
“Ugunduzi huu utuelekeze kujipanga hasa ktk eneo la mikataba yetu ili rasilimali hii adimu isaidie kuujenga uchumi wetu”
The discovery of a vast reserve of helium in east Africa has allayed fears of a global shortage of the precious gas crucial for the running of brain scanners, major scientific facilities, and parties that require floating balloons and squeaky voices.
According to independent analysts, the natural store of helium found in the Rift valley in Tanzania contains an estimated 54bn cubic feet of the noble gas, enough to inflate a similar number of party balloons, or to fill 1,200,000 hospital MRI scanners, researchers said.
A team from the UK and Norway uncovered the huge resource after applying expertise gleaned from oil and gas exploration to understand how helium is produced in rocks under the ground and where it accumulates.
“This is a significant find,” said Jon Gluyas, professor of geo-energy at Durham University and a member of the discovery team. “There are reserves of helium gas, but they have been depleting quite quickly. The price has gone up 500% in 15 years.” The steep rise has occurred despite the discovery of a huge natural gas field in Qatar that contains a small percentage of helium gas. “We have to keep finding more, it’s not renewable or replaceable,” he added.
Party’s over: the end of helium balloons
The steady decline in global helium reserves concerned some doctors so much that they had called for a ban on its use in party balloons. At a British Medical Association meeting last year anaesthetist Tom Dolphin told delegates: “This invaluable, irreplaceable gas is being literally handed to children in balloons so they can be entertained for a few minutes until they get bored and let go.” One Nobel laureate, the late Robert Richardson, said in 2012 that helium balloons should cost £75 each to reflect the true cost of the gas.
Helium is used in MRI scanners, nuclear research facilities, and for specific industrial tasks such as leak detection. Vast amounts are needed to keep superconducting magnets cool at the Large Hadron Collider at Cern near Geneva.
The gas is the second most abundant element in the observable universe, but Earth’s initial endowment was lost to space many billions of years ago. What is available for use today is produced inside rocks through the steady radioactive decay of uranium and other elements. The hard part is finding where the gas builds up into useful reserves.
Until now natural helium supplies have been discovered by accident and only in small quantities through oil and gas drilling operations. But working with a Norwegian helium exploration company, Helium One, the UK scientists found that heat from volcanoes in the east African Rift valley released helium from ancient rocks buried deep underground. It then became trapped in shallower gas fields.
The research was presented by Durham University PhD student Diveena Danabalan at the Goldschmidt geochemistry conference in Yokohama, Japan.
“This is a gamechanger for the future security of society’s helium needs and similar finds in the future may not be far away,” said Chris Ballentine, a geochemist at Oxford University who was part of the discovery team.