Plumbing the depths of the ocean is an occupation that attracts scientists and industrialists as well as treasure hunters.
This week, under the auspices of the European Commission, the third European Marine Science and Technology conference took place in Lisbon. Experts gathered to set a pan-European agenda for scientific ocean drilling.
The work is considered vital to identify future energy sources, from oil to gas hydrates.
Gas hydrates are crystalline compounds which occur when water forms a cage-like structure around a smaller guest molecule such as methane, ethane, propane, isobutane, normal butane, nitrogen, carbon dioxide and hydrogen sulphide. They are thought to have potential as an energy source and could have an impact on climate patterns.
Three commission programmes Corsaires, Enam and Hyace are studying different approaches to scientific ocean drilling. They are part of the new Fifth Framework programme for research and technological development.