When reading the frozen natural gas storage at the bottom of the Black Sea, northern German researchers discovered spectacular gas clouds. "At a depth of 180 meters, we have observed violent leaks of methane gas from meter-high carbonate chimneys, " said expedition leader Walter Michaelis of the University of Hamburg on Wednesday the German Press Agency. With 30 scientists from four countries he is on the Russian research vessel "Professor Logachev" southwest of the Crimean peninsula on the way. The researchers are investigating, among other things, frozen gas storage, so-called methane hydrates, which contain huge amounts of energy. As a sensational Michaelis classified a further discovery: From the environment of the gas clouds one could have in the oxygen-free water more than 10 centimeters thick mats of microorganisms that feed on the methane gas. On a square meter over 20 kilograms of biomass have been found. "Such quantities have never been seen before, " Michaelis emphasized. The primeval organisms, from which one finds traces in the carbonate rock, played an important role in the methane cycle of the sea.

The work in the study area, which is about the size of Lower Saxony, started only last weekend. In addition to a gripper with TV camera, the researchers also use a submersible to 400 meters depth. The exploration of methane hydrates in the Black Sea continues until the end of July. It is the first German research project in Ukrainian waters for six years.

The methane hydrates are solid, ice-like compounds of water and gas. They form under high pressure and at low temperatures, especially in the deep sea and in the permafrost. According to researchers, the frozen natural gas storage facilities contain more energy worldwide than all the deposits of oil, natural gas and coal combined.

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