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posted by martyb on Sunday January 09, @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: 0) by Anonymous Coward on Sunday January 09, @07:28PM (7 children)

    by Anonymous Coward on Sunday January 09, @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, @08:14PM

    by EvilSS (1456) Subscriber Badge on Sunday January 09, @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, @03:37AM (3 children)

    by Anonymous Coward on Monday January 10, @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, @04:16AM (2 children)

      by Immerman (3985) on Tuesday January 11, @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, @07:32PM (1 child)

        by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday January 11, @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, @01:39AM

          by Immerman (3985) on Wednesday January 12, @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, @04:39AM (1 child)

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

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

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

      by ChrisMaple (6964) on Thursday January 13, @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.