After a three-week expedition, the Kiel-based research ship FS POSEIDON has reached the discharge port at Heraklion, Crete, carrying preliminary results on board. Sponsored by RWE Dea, the ten-strong team of scientists and technicians under the supervision of Dr. Tomas Feseker of the Leibniz Institute of Marine Sciences (IFM-GEOMAR) explored the relations between gas genesis and mud volcanoes in the Egyptian Nile Delta. The remit of the research project was to gain a greater understanding of gas reserves and how they interrelate with submarine emissions.
For the first time, it was possible to examine regions within the 50 mile zone off the coast of Egypt thanks to a comprehensive permit granted by the Egyptian authorities. The two mud volcanoes “Giza” and “North Alex” are located around 50 kilometers off the harbor city of Alexandria at water depths of 700 and 500 meters. Here, in the top layer of an enormous sediment fan protruding out of the Nile estuary, mud volcanoes form natural outlets for gas, water and mud from sources kilometers below.
The preliminary results of the POSEIDON expedition reveal that the two mud volcanoes are very active. This was demonstrated by high temperatures of over 60 degrees just a few meters below the seabed. “These high temperatures prove that the mud volcanoes propel sediments from great depths to the seabed at a very swift rate,” explains Feseker. “What this means for us is that we can use the mud volcano as a window to view the depths of the seabed.”
This expedition was made possible with the support of RWE Dea, which is funding the geological investigations into natural sources of gas and fluids as part of the “West Nile Delta Project” at IFM-GEOMAR. RWE Dea has been engaged in exploration for and production of oil and gas in Egypt for over 30 years. “Accordingly, the environmental and safety-related aspects of extracting gas were of particular interest to us with this project,” explains Dr. Christian Bücker, coordinator of research and development at RWE Dea.
Further geochemical and sendimentological studies are to be performed and temperatures measured to extend the knowledge already gained of the activity of these two mud volcanoes. Further expeditions to the mud volcanoes in the West Nile Delta are planned for autumn 2008 as well as later years.