International voyage to probe methane deposits

International voyage to probe methane deposits

Onboard RV Sonne in Wellington. (Photo: Kate Whitley, GNS Science)

NIWA scientists joined colleagues from Europe, New Zealand, and Australia onboard the German research vessel RV Sonne last month to investigate methane deposits beneath New Zealand’s seafloor.

The three-month voyage will gather geophysical, geochemical, and biological data from methane seeps and hydrate deposits along the seafloor between Wellington and Gisborne. This area contains vast reserves of concentrated gas hydrate – frozen methane deposits that are a potentially rich source of energy, but also a source of potent greenhouse gas.

The scientists will use the well-equipped RV Sonne to determine the extent of the deposits, what causes them to decompose, and how much methane is released into the atmosphere when they break down. They will also follow up earlier biological studies of the unusual biota living around methane seeps.