General Knowledge

The Door to Hell

I don’t want to get too bogged out on the etymology But if you’re gonna name a place the door to hell it had better look something like this in this case I think we can all agree the name fits The door to hell otherwise known as the Darvaza gas crater isn’t exactly a natural phenomenon nature merely provided the raw materials for what humans managed to turn into a decades-long environmental freak show and while it’s origin is somewhat shrouded in mystery the science behind it is not it was nineteen seventy one when a group of Soviet petroleum geologists set out to explore the Karakum desert in Turkmenistan mostly they were looking for oil fields but the region is also rich in natural gas because oil and gas are both the results of the same geologic process the very slow very intense compression of ancient organic material over time .

though there has never been an official report about the events that followed most believe that during the initial exploration of the area the geologists were so encouraged by their estimates of how much natural gas there was that they quickly set up some drilling rigs but unbeknownst to them they drilled right over a big cavernous pocket of natural gas and it collapsed soon after the operation began the ground gave way taking with it their equipment and creating an enormous sinkhole more than 60 meters in diameter and 20 meters deep miraculously no one is reported to have been killed but there was another problem natural gas is composed primarily of methane a colorless odorless gas that.

while not toxic can displace oxygen and easily make it hard to breathe when it’s nearby and then there’s that thing that we like so much about methane in the first place it loves to explode, it can create a combustible mixture in the air at levels as low as 5 % + even though we had yet to pick up on the fact of global warming back then it’s worth pointing out that methane is a greenhouse gas 20 times more potent than carbon dioxide.

That’s why in some oil and gas drilling operations were natural gas is released if it can’t be captured it just burned off in a process called flaring yes this still releases tons of co2 but co2 is way less bad than methane anyway those seventies Soviet scientists were left with a choice one continue to let the dangerous methane vent into the atmosphere putting the local population and environment at risk or two light the crater on fire burning off all the gas and what scientists predicted would take a few weeks they chose the latter and 42 years later the crater is still burning.

Today the door to hell has become something of a – tourist attraction creating an eerie glow that can be seen at night from kilometers away and releasing a terrible [Eggy?] smell that has nothing to do with natural gas which remember has no smell but is instead produced by hydrogen sulfide in the ground; Can’t wait to go there myself and if you want to visit you probably have some time the fire will continue to burn until all the natural gas deposits feeding the flame have been combusted

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