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posted by martyb on Sunday January 09 2022, @09:27AM   Printer-friendly
from the Red-Adair dept.

Turkmenistan's leader wants 'Gates of Hell' fire put out:

The president of Turkmenistan is calling for an end to one of the country's most notable but infernal sights — the blazing natural gas crater widely referred to as the "Gates of Hell."

The desert crater located about 260 kilometers (160 miles) north of the capital, Ashgabat, has burned for decades and is a popular sight for the small number of tourists who come to Turkmenistan, a country which is difficult to enter.

The Turkmen news site Turkmenportal said a 1971 gas-drilling collapse formed the crater, which is about 60 meters (190 feet) in diameter and 20 meters (70 feet) deep. To prevent the spread of gas, geologists set a fire, expecting the gas to burn off in a few weeks.

[...] The spectacular if unwelcome fire that has burned ever since is so renowned that state TV showed President Gurbanguly Berdymukhamedov speeding around it in an off-road truck in 2019.

But Berdymukhamedov has ordered his government to look for ways to put the fire out because it is causing ecological damage and affecting the health of people living in the area, state newspaper Neitralny Turkmenistan reported Saturday.


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  • (Score: -1, Troll) by Anonymous Coward on Sunday January 09 2022, @09:43AM

    by Anonymous Coward on Sunday January 09 2022, @09:43AM (#1211221)

    I want to be filled with love gel.

  • (Score: 2) by looorg on Sunday January 09 2022, @12:55PM (1 child)

    by looorg (578) on Sunday January 09 2022, @12:55PM (#1211231)

    As I recall it they have already tried to putting it out a few times but didn't manage. I guess there is always room for another attempt. That said as it is now it also serves as some kind of tourist attraction etc, so if you manage to put it out I don't think that "the big hole" is going to have the same pull as the "Gates of Hell". I guess they figure the amount of gas that is burned away is more valuable then the amounts of money that the tourists spend, after all Turkmenistan doesn't really sound like a very common tourist trap and attraction.

    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Darvaza_gas_crater [wikipedia.org]

    • (Score: 0) by Anonymous Coward on Sunday January 09 2022, @01:13PM

      by Anonymous Coward on Sunday January 09 2022, @01:13PM (#1211232)

      It's been burning away fuel that could have been burned for more productive use. It's also made the air in the area pretty bad from what I gather. I don't believe they've tried to extinguish it recently, so there may be more options available than there were then, or the government may now be willing to try things that previous governments weren't in order to extinguish it.

  • (Score: 2, Insightful) by Anonymous Coward on Sunday January 09 2022, @01:44PM (18 children)

    by Anonymous Coward on Sunday January 09 2022, @01:44PM (#1211237)

    Say you did something and managed to put the fire out.
        (Maybe a big boom or truck loads of liquid CO2?)

    Then the Methane is still flowing but not burning.
        What is the safest thing to do?
        There is no well head to cap, just boiling mud.
          Set it on fire.

    Perhaps some directional drilling from outside the crater could harvest the gas?
    Maybe there is some old seismic data is available from the Soviet era?
    Maybe some oil company would take it on as a potential new field?

    In the meantime, fire may be the best answer.

    • (Score: 4, Insightful) by hendrikboom on Sunday January 09 2022, @02:53PM (16 children)

      by hendrikboom (1125) Subscriber Badge on Sunday January 09 2022, @02:53PM (#1211246) Homepage Journal

      Releasing CO2 into the atmosphere sure is better than releasing methane into the atmosphere.

      • (Score: 1, Funny) by Anonymous Coward on Sunday January 09 2022, @05:17PM

        by Anonymous Coward on Sunday January 09 2022, @05:17PM (#1211267)

        That is not funny that is fact.

      • (Score: 2) by captain normal on Sunday January 09 2022, @05:38PM (6 children)

        by captain normal (2205) on Sunday January 09 2022, @05:38PM (#1211271)

        Is that really true?
        https://www.epa.gov/gmi/importance-methane [epa.gov]

        --
        “I have not failed. I’ve just found 10,000 ways that won’t work.” Thomas Edison
        • (Score: 2) by EvilSS on Sunday January 09 2022, @08:12PM (5 children)

          by EvilSS (1456) Subscriber Badge on Sunday January 09 2022, @08:12PM (#1211303)
          Your link appears to say yes, that is true.
          • (Score: 2) by captain normal on Sunday January 09 2022, @11:40PM (4 children)

            by captain normal (2205) on Sunday January 09 2022, @11:40PM (#1211343)

            "Methane is more than 25 times as potent as carbon dioxide at trapping heat in the atmosphere. Over the last two centuries, methane concentrations in the atmosphere have more than doubled, largely due to human-related activities. Because methane is both a powerful greenhouse gas and short-lived compared to carbon dioxide, achieving significant reductions would have a rapid and significant effect on atmospheric warming potential."
            That's from the linked site.

            --
            “I have not failed. I’ve just found 10,000 ways that won’t work.” Thomas Edison
            • (Score: 2) by EvilSS on Monday January 10 2022, @04:45AM (3 children)

              by EvilSS (1456) Subscriber Badge on Monday January 10 2022, @04:45AM (#1211414)

              Releasing CO2 into the atmosphere sure is better than releasing methane into the atmosphere.

              Is that really true?

              Your link appears to say yes, that is true.

              "Methane is more than 25 times as potent as carbon dioxide at trapping heat in the atmosphere.

              So again, yes your link says that is really true.

              • (Score: 0) by Anonymous Coward on Monday January 10 2022, @07:55PM (2 children)

                by Anonymous Coward on Monday January 10 2022, @07:55PM (#1211586)

                Methane is broken up by direct sunlight, co2 not so much.

                • (Score: 2) by Immerman on Tuesday January 11 2022, @03:41AM

                  by Immerman (3985) on Tuesday January 11 2022, @03:41AM (#1211690)

                  It takes a long time though. And when it does finally break down... it becomes CO2.

                • (Score: 2) by EvilSS on Tuesday January 11 2022, @05:49AM

                  by EvilSS (1456) Subscriber Badge on Tuesday January 11 2022, @05:49AM (#1211720)
                  1 mole of methane produces 1 mole of CO2 when burned. Being 25x more efficient at being a greenhouse gas than CO2 means in the short term, it is far worse. It can last up to 120 years below the troposphere. When it does break down, it does so into water and CO2, so you end up with the CO2 anyway, plus water vapor high in the atmosphere where it too acts as greenhouse gas.
      • (Score: 0) by Anonymous Coward on Sunday January 09 2022, @07:28PM (7 children)

        by Anonymous Coward on Sunday January 09 2022, @07:28PM (#1211293)

        Yes, but in this case, the methane is being burned to create CO2, they might as well truck in a bunch of it to help smother the fire, but if they're going to do that, then they might as well use something like nitrogen which is inert and already a large component of the atmosphere. From the looks of it, there's not much living in the vicinity of the fire anyways. They just need to smother the fire long enough to be able to cool it below the ignition temperature for methane. From what I've read, that's below about 600C.

        This is a particularly tricky fire to extinguish, unlike an oil well that's small enough to be put out via explosion while dousing it in water, this will require something more. Tapping a bunch of wells in the general vicinity might help, but would be touchy. Trying to construct a dome or similar over top would have issues as the fire is burning hot enough to melt steel. They might build a dam of sorts around it and pump in a crapton of inert gas until the oxygen needed for combustion is insufficient.

        Obviously, those are all deeply flawed possibilities and not likely to be workable.

        • (Score: 2) by EvilSS on Sunday January 09 2022, @08:14PM

          by EvilSS (1456) Subscriber Badge on Sunday January 09 2022, @08:14PM (#1211304)
          Yes but in that case you smother the fire and are now releasing methane, a much more potent greenhouse gas, into the atmosphere.
        • (Score: 1, Insightful) by Anonymous Coward on Monday January 10 2022, @03:37AM (3 children)

          by Anonymous Coward on Monday January 10 2022, @03:37AM (#1211398)

          Uhm ... I don't think methane burns hot enough to melt steel. Otherwise your gas stove would cause your kettles to melt. Does this crater release anything other than methane or have any other source of fuel?

          Acetylene burns considerably hotter than methane.

          • (Score: 3, Insightful) by Immerman on Tuesday January 11 2022, @04:16AM (2 children)

            by Immerman (3985) on Tuesday January 11 2022, @04:16AM (#1211701)

            It does.

            Methane burns at around 1,957C in air, about the same as propane, while acetylene buns at about 2,400C. (I believe that's an open flame in a "typical" environment - numbers can change wildly depending on the combustion environment)

            Meanwhile carbon steel melts at 1,425-1,540C, depending on specific alloy, and stainless at 1,510C. Pretty much anything hotter than a candle or cigarette burns hot enough to melt it. (And you don't even have to actually melt for it to be a structural problem - it gets dramatically weaker at temperatures far below the melting point.)

            That's normally complicated by the fact that most metal conducts heat *really* well, so if you're only heating a small area with a torch (or candle), then it may be really challenging to get the metal nearly as hot as the flame - instead you heat up a much larger area of metal which is able to efficiently dump heat into the environment - such as into the water on the other side of that thin sheet of kettle-bottom. In that case it's extremely difficult to heat the metal above 100C until all the water has boiled off.

            • (Score: 0) by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday January 11 2022, @07:32PM (1 child)

              by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday January 11 2022, @07:32PM (#1211869)

              So what are the burner grates made out of that they don't melt even if you leave the burner on for prolonged periods of time?

              • (Score: 2) by Immerman on Wednesday January 12 2022, @01:39AM

                by Immerman (3985) on Wednesday January 12 2022, @01:39AM (#1211987)

                Might be plain iron - they've got a whole lot of stove to use as a heat sink.

                Probably it's some high-temperature alloy.

        • (Score: 0) by Anonymous Coward on Monday January 10 2022, @04:39AM (1 child)

          by Anonymous Coward on Monday January 10 2022, @04:39AM (#1211412)

          Nitrogen is not inert and in fact can be quite reactive.

          • (Score: 2) by ChrisMaple on Thursday January 13 2022, @06:23AM

            by ChrisMaple (6964) on Thursday January 13 2022, @06:23AM (#1212345)

            Atmospheric nitrogen, N2, is quite stable under most conditions. It's so stable that it's used as a filler in some incandescent light bulbs. It takes special chemical processes (nitrogen fixing plants) or high energy events (lightning) to get other nitrogen compounds or monatomic nitrogen.

    • (Score: 1) by khallow on Sunday January 09 2022, @09:29PM

      by khallow (3766) Subscriber Badge on Sunday January 09 2022, @09:29PM (#1211317) Journal

      Perhaps some directional drilling from outside the crater could harvest the gas?

      This. Looks to me like you need to take the methane away. Nothing else would be an improvement.

  • (Score: 0) by Anonymous Coward on Sunday January 09 2022, @03:23PM (1 child)

    by Anonymous Coward on Sunday January 09 2022, @03:23PM (#1211252)

    Glorious Kazakhstan wants to open its own Gates of Hell.

    • (Score: 0) by Anonymous Coward on Sunday January 09 2022, @04:02PM

      by Anonymous Coward on Sunday January 09 2022, @04:02PM (#1211254)

      I thought Bill still lived in a suburb of Seattle.

  • (Score: 1, Interesting) by Anonymous Coward on Sunday January 09 2022, @06:24PM (5 children)

    by Anonymous Coward on Sunday January 09 2022, @06:24PM (#1211280)

    Is the soil around it stable and relatively impervious? I'm thinking that if they built a foundation around it they could then construct a large metal dome over it. As the last panel of the dome is put in place, they would need to carefully maintain pressure by blowing air in, keeping the fire going so that the dome didn't implode. Then, once they had control of the situation they could gradually reduce combustion until the whole setup cooled. The gas would still be flared, but in a controlled manner. Then once they had a well controlled flare, they could transition that in to clean-burning gas fired power plant.

    I'm guessing that this would be a very expensive one-off that isn't guaranteed to work though, probably because the soil isn't stable. If you dig near it, it will just expand the hole, right?

    • (Score: 2) by corey on Sunday January 09 2022, @10:28PM (1 child)

      by corey (2202) on Sunday January 09 2022, @10:28PM (#1211332)

      Interesting thought.

      My thought is, there wouldn’t be any need for a power station in the desert. It’s 260km from the capital. Might be better to build a solar plant.

      Maybe be best if they put the fire out (just fill in with dirt I’d say), then extract the methane to sell.

      • (Score: 2) by Immerman on Tuesday January 11 2022, @04:28AM

        by Immerman (3985) on Tuesday January 11 2022, @04:28AM (#1211706)

        It's a big flaming hole, it's presumably *already* filled in with dirt. But air (or gas) can pass through all the tiny gaps in the dirt fairly easily, allowing flames to burn on the surface (see: every sand-, gravel-, or crushed-glass filled novelty gas fireplace).

        Natural gas only stays in the ground if it gets trapped under large domes of unbroken stone. And once we punch a hole through that stone - usually to get at the oil that also gets trapped underneath, then the gas will flow up and out unless the hole is patched with something non-permeable. And that rock dome tends to be pretty deep underground, meaning that to stop the leak in a collapsed well you'll have to first dig all the way down to it so that it can be patched. Without creating any sparks that could start the fire going again.

    • (Score: 0) by Anonymous Coward on Monday January 10 2022, @03:40AM (2 children)

      by Anonymous Coward on Monday January 10 2022, @03:40AM (#1211399)

      Perhaps construct a dome around it and funnel the gas to people's homes for heating.

      • (Score: 0) by Anonymous Coward on Monday January 10 2022, @03:48PM (1 child)

        by Anonymous Coward on Monday January 10 2022, @03:48PM (#1211506)

        Perhaps use platinum catalysts to split the methane into hydrogen and carbon, which can be compressed to make diamonds that will make everyone RICH!!!!!

        • (Score: 0) by Anonymous Coward on Monday January 10 2022, @05:25PM

          by Anonymous Coward on Monday January 10 2022, @05:25PM (#1211541)

          ... or they could just fill it with sand and create the worlds largest piece of glass?

  • (Score: 2) by krishnoid on Sunday January 09 2022, @09:41PM (1 child)

    by krishnoid (1156) on Sunday January 09 2022, @09:41PM (#1211322)

    The president of Turkmenistan is calling for an end to one of the country's most notable but infernal sights — the blazing natural gas crater widely referred to as the "Gates of Hell."

    The desert crater located about 260 kilometers (160 miles) north of the capital, Ashgabat, has burned for decades and is a popular sight for the small number of tourists who come to Turkmenistan, a country which is difficult to enter.

    Maybe they could put in a nicer road to get there. You know, paved with good intentions.

    • (Score: 2) by ChrisMaple on Thursday January 13 2022, @06:31AM

      by ChrisMaple (6964) on Thursday January 13 2022, @06:31AM (#1212346)

      Good Intentions seems like an excellent name for a pavement or roadbuilding company, or a brand of rocky road ice cream.

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