Indian Ocean Current Affairs

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New fault in Indian Ocean may trigger earthquakes in future: study

According to scientists, a new plate boundary may be forming on the floor of the Indian Ocean in Wharton Basin as a result of the 2012 earthquake that shook the Andaman-Sumatra region.

The discovery was based on the study of seismic data recorded before, during and after the 2012 quakes and sea floor depth analysis by venturing into the ocean aboard a research vessel.

Key Facts
  • Scientists created a high-resolution imagery of the sea floor by using data which unveiled deformations that had occurred on the tsunamilgIndo-Australian Plate.
  • It showed that the plate had broken along a 1,000 km fracture zone due to 2012 earthquakes, resulting in a new plate boundary and likely to be the site of future fault-slip earthquakes.
  • The analysis showed a new fault system had developed in the area off the coast of Sumatra that was involved in the 2012 earthquakes. The new fault system can trigger more quakes in the future.
  • Slip-strike earthquake occurs when two plates slide horizontally against one another. As a result, earthquake causes deformations that occur in plates distant from fault lines as pressure builds up across a plate.
  • These earthquakes can lead to inter-plate earthquakes and cause a plate to break, resulting in a new boundary and this in turn can lead to even more quakes.
  • This similar scenario is believed to happened in 2012 when two earthquakes struck the Andaman-Sumatran regio (north-west part) of the Indian Ocean which was the largest inter-plate earthquakes ever recorded.

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Union Cabinet approves extension of contract with ISA for exploration of Polymetallic Nodules

The Union Cabinet has approved the extension of contract with and International Seabed Authority (ISA) for exploration of Polymetallic Nodules (PMS).

The contract is between Union Ministry of Earth Sciences and ISA. It has been extended for a further period of 5 years (2017-22) as the earlier contract is expiring in March 2017.

What are Polymetallic Nodules?

  • Polymetallic nodules (PMN) are also known as manganese nodules.
  • They are potato-shaped, largely porous nodules found in abundance carpeting the sea floor in the deep sea of the world oceans.
  • Besides manganese and iron, they contain nickel, copper, cobalt, lead, molybdenum, cadmium, vanadium, titanium.
  • Of these metals nickel, cobalt and copper are considered to be of economic and strategic importance.

What extension of Contract means?

  • By extending the contract, India’s exclusive rights for exploration of PMN in the allotted Area in the Central Indian Ocean Basin will continue.
  • It would open up new opportunities for resources of strategic and commercial value in area beyond national jurisdiction.
  • Further, it would provide strategic importance for India in terms of enhanced presence in Indian Ocean where other international players are also active in mineral explorations.

Background

  • India had signed a 15 year contract for exploration of PMN in Central Indian Ocean Basin with the ISA in March, 2002 with the approval of the Union Cabinet.
  • Under this contract, India is having an area of 75,000 sq km located about 2000 km away from her southern tip for exploration of PMN.
  • The Union Ministry of Earth Sciences is carrying out Survey and Exploration, Technology Development (Mining and Extractive Metallurgy) under PNS program through various national institutes.

About International Seabed Authority (ISA)

The ISA is an intergovernmental body that organizes, regulates and control all mineral (non-living resources) related activities in the international seabed area beyond the limits of national jurisdiction. It functions under the aegis of the United Nations Convention on Law of the Sea (UNCLOS). Presently, the ISA has 167 members and the European Union. The headquarters of ISA is located at Kingston, Jamaica.

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India-US joint expedition discovers natural gas in Indian Ocean

Joint expeditions by India and the United States have discovered large, highly enriched accumulations of natural gas hydrate (an icy form of the fuel) in Indian Ocean.

The discovery was made by the Union Oil Ministry and the US Geological Survey in the Bay of Bengal. It was the result of the most comprehensive gas hydrate field venture in the world to date that comprised of scientists from India, Japan and the US.

Significance

This is the first of its kind discovery in the Indian Ocean that has the potential to be producible and opens up a new resource to meet needs of energy hungry India.

The discovery will help unlock the global energy resource potential of gas hydrates as well as help define the technology needed to safely exploit (extract) them.

What are Natural gas hydrates?

  • Natural gas hydrates are a naturally occurring, ice-like combination of natural gas and water. They are mainly found in oceans and Polar Regions.
  • Gas hydrates are considered as vast resources of natural gas. They are known to occur in marine sediments on continental shelf margins.
  • Composition: By nature Gas hydrates is mostly methane (CH4). Methane gas hydrate is most stable at the seafloor at water depths beneath about 500 meters.

Distribution of Gas hydrates

  • The amount of gas within the world’s gas hydrate accumulations is estimated to greatly exceed the volume of all known conventional gas resources.
  • In India, gas hydrate resources are estimated at 1,894 trillion cubic meters (tcm) and these deposits occur in Eastern, Western and Andaman offshore areas.
  • It is postulated that gas hydrate deposits along ocean margins are estimated to exceed known petroleum reserves by a factor of three.

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