Discovery will alleviate global helium gas shortage.
Geologists from British universities have discovered 1.5 billion cubic metres of helium in the alkaline Lake Rukwa in south-west Tanzania.
The discovery of the rare element by researchers from Oxford and Durham universities, working with the Norway-based exploration company Helium One, has opened up the possibility for more drillings elsewhere in the east African region, particularly in the Rift Valley lakes.
The geologists' “game changing” find was made using new experimental search methods, linking helium to volcanic activity and geochemistry.
It marks the first non-intentional discovery of the valuable gas which is crucial for Magnetic Resonance Imaging (MRI) machines, hot air balloons, rockets, space exploration vehicles and nuclear energy.
The find, which is described as around the size of 600,000 Olympic-sized swimming pools full of gas, comes at a time of dwindling helium reserves around the world.
Annual global consumption of helium is about 226 million cubic metres.