At the outset of their study, researchers from the University of Haifa found more than 700 pockmarks (some at least 200 feet, or 60 meters, across) in the seabed that they suspected were active gas springs. Further geophysical investigation indicated these indentations were actually connected to a 27-square-mile (72-square-kilometer) reserve on the continental shelf, which is letting some gas escape from relatively shallow depths between 121 and 367 feet (37 and 112 meters) below sea-level.
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If disturbed, this undersea reserve could disrupt the surrounding marine environment and might even unleash greenhouse gases into the atmosphere.
"We don't know yet what kind of gas we're talking about, but its role in undermining the stability of the seabed is clear," Michael Lazar, a member of the research team, said in a statement. "This means that any discussion of marine infrastructure development must seriously relate to this shallow gas stratum."
Israel has been expanding its energy production efforts, meaning they are also developing more infrastructure to transport natural gas from deep-sea drilling back to the shore. Some of these projects will include pressure-reducing facilities built on the continental shelf. Now that scientists know about the shallow system of gas springs, they can take precautions not to disturb it.
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