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Hell's Gate in Turkmenistan: Burning Precious Energy for Nothing Since 1971

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Please watch the short video below:

This hole (initially a gas-filled cave) has been named “Hell’s Gate”, for obvious reasons. It was discovered when some geologists have been searching for natural gas, in Turkmenistan’s Karakum desert, in Darvasa. The ground beneath the drilling rig collapsed, leaving a large hole with a diameter of about 50-100 meters.

Since nobody had the guts to go inside because of the large amounts of methane there, they had a “brilliant” idea: set it on fire. And so they did.

What you can see is a fire that has never stopped since 1971, when it was started.

There’s one question I’d like you to answer, if you know more about it: why hasn’t this continuously-burning methane source been harvested all this time? Ok, they lost the gas, but the heat produced by the fire is another valuable source of energy that could have brought millions of millions of dollars to any energy company in the world! There are so many technical solutions now, compared to back then, that it would be a real loss to let it burn for nothing.

Stirling engines are readily available to harness the power, and they were available even then, in 1971.

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4 COMMENTS

  1. In 1971 the hole was in the Soviet Republic of Turkmenistan. They did not have any money and in Moscow, where the money would have had to come from, they could not have cared less, apart from the little fact that their budgeting followed a five year plan. It was an unforeseen event, so naturally there was no money in the plan. The Soviets may not have had the technology to deal with the fire, and were very reluctant to ask for help in the West. That occurred only in 1986 with Chernobyl and most people think that this marked the endphase of communism. It was very humiliating for Soviet Officials to sit on the steps of an agency in Cologne on an April morning, waiting for the office to open and say ‘please help us.’

    Then the Soviet Union collapsed and Turkmenistan, with a small population did not have the resources.
    The next step would have been to find international capital, but if international capital does not see immediate profits it turns to something else. Now the international capital market has become a dog’s breakfast thanks to Wall Street. Capital for dealing with this huge wok burner is simply no longer there.

    Even if Turkmenistan were to be fined for these carbon emissions, they would probably not pay. I am no expert but doubt whether Turkmenistan would even have the money to do something in the required category.

    It needs to be made an international issue. As long as someone looks out for Turkmenistan’s governemnt or private enterprise to do something about it, the big wok burner will burn.

  2. This methane used to be frozen before global warming melted it. The whole northern landscape is littered with enormous frozen methane producing peat bogs that until a few years remained frozen year-round. Methane is a greenhouse gas 20X more powerful than Co2.

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