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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: 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.

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  • (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.