GUANGZHOU, June 12 (Xinhua) -- A drilling rig in the South China Sea mining what may represent a new generation of fossil fuel -- combustible ice -- emerged unscathed after an encounter with a full-blown typhoon Monday.
A spokesperson for China Geological Survey, which operates the rig, told Xinhua that the storm blew past the area Monday morning and all workers and equipment were safe. The operation continued till 5 p.m.
Typhoon Merbok, packing winds between 89 to 102 kilometers per hour and stirring tides up to 6.5 meters, is moving across the South China Sea towards the south China coast. It is expected to make landfall later on Monday.
The rig is located 320 km southeast of the city of Zhuhai, Guangdong Province. It has been in operation since May 10. The authorities decided not to move the rig but to shut down its outdoor activities ahead of the typhoon.
Combustible ice usually exists in seabed or tundra areas, which have the strong pressure and low temperatures necessary for its stability. It is flammable like solid ethanol.
In May, China announced the successful collection of samples of combustible ice in the South China Sea after nearly two decades of research and exploration, hailing it as a major breakthrough that may lead to a global energy revolution.
The Ministry of Land and Resources said China is estimated to have 80 billion tonnes of oil equivalent combustible ice.
In the South China Sea, Chinese researchers have explored about 210,000 cubic meters of the combustible ice and the tests are proceeding smoothly.