Monday, September 1, 2014
PLACERVILLE, CALIFORNIA
99 CENTS

Rock doc: The door to hell lies in Turkmenistan

By
January 30, 2014 |

I’ve written here before about the problem of unwanted fires burning in coal deposits. Above and below ground, coal fires are a problem in both developed and developing nations. If we are serious about reducing our carbon dioxide emissions, we should address the unwanted fires burning around the world.
Unwanted coal fires are not a huge slice of the carbon dioxide pie, but putting them out is one way we could decrease the emission of greenhouse gases without putting a damper on economic growth. And if we addressed coal fires where they can be extinguished, we could help clean up local air quality, as well.
I’ve seen photos from India of blazes with flames reaching more than 20 feet into the sky. China also has many fires burning in its coalfields. But the problem isn’t just limited to the developing world. Here in the U.S. we have coal fires burning in places as varied as Pennsylvania and Wyoming.
Now I’ve learned that unwanted natural gas fires can also be a long-term problem. Sometimes gas fires burn themselves out quickly, but in at least one place in the world that hasn’t been the case at all. The story merited a place recently in England’s Daily Mail.
The Karakum Desert lies in central Turkmenistan. Turkmenistan, you might recall, is in central Asia, just east of the Caspian Sea. There’s a great deal of natural gas in Turkmenistan — the Karakum Desert has one of the larger natural gas reserves to be found anywhere.
In 1971 Soviet geologists and engineers were exploring in the Karakum Desert for oil and natural gas. Part of the exploration effort, of course, was setting up drilling rigs and penetrating the ground. Quite unexpectedly, the earth underneath one drilling rig collapsed, creating a crater.
The guys at work in the area realized there was methane — natural gas — in the new crater. That flammable gas was a hazard for the workers and nearby villagers as well. Putting their heads together, the people on the scene decided to ignite the natural gas in the crater. They thought it would be a good way to eliminate the hazard, trusting that the fire would burn out in a short time.
But the fire in the crater has burned continually since that day in 1971. Enough gas vapor flows naturally into the crater that the flame burns endlessly onward. The crater — with its flames and boiling mud — is called the Door to Hell by those who live nearby. The crater appears to be growing over time, and it has become something of a tourist attraction.
Beyond making for intriguing photos, coal and natural gas burning out of control does us no good. As I’ve argued before, we can and should do more to put out unwanted fires of earth materials. In so doing we would help local, often impoverished, residents affected by fires — and even help the whole world in terms of cutting our greenhouse gas emissions.
Dr. E. Kirsten Peters, a native of the rural Northwest, was trained as a geologist at Princeton and Harvard. This column is a service of the College of Agricultural, Human, and Natural Resource Sciences at Washington State University.  

Comments

Subscription Required

Thank you for reading the MtDemocrat.com digital edition. In order to continue reading this story please choose one of the following options.

Current Subscribers
If you are a current subscriber and wish to obtain access to MtDemocrat.com, please select the Subscriber Verification option below. If you already have a login, please select "Login" at the lower right corner of this box.

Subscriber Verification

Special Introductory Offer
For a short time we will be offering a discount to those who call us in order to obtain access to MtDemocrat.com and start your print subscription. Our customer support team will be standing by Monday through Friday, 8am to 5pm to assist you.

Call and Save! (530) 344-5000

If you are not a current subscriber and wish not to take advantage of our special introductory offer, please select the $12 monthly option below to obtain access to MtDemocrat.com and start your online subscription

Help?

E. Kirsten Peters

.

News

 
‘Cody just vanished’: Parents of missing man still hopeful

By Cole Mayer | From Page: A1 | Gallery

Heard over the back fence: Posse fundraiser Sept. 6

By Bob Billingsley | From Page: B1

 
County moves to privatize mental health facility operations

By Chris Daley | From Page: A1 | Gallery

City Council: Candidate forced to change statement

By Wendy Schultz | From Page: A1

 
City bike and trail projects move ahead

By Dawn Hodson | From Page: A3

 
Six indicted on meth, heroin trafficking

By Cole Mayer | From Page: A3

Cameron Park burglar caught on camera

By Cole Mayer | From Page: A3

 
Board of good sports

By Chris Daley | From Page: A9 | Gallery

.

Opinion

Labor Day

By Mountain Democrat | From Page: A4

 
The balancing act: More county shenanigans

By Larry Weitzman | From Page: A4

California rambling: Surprising Santa Clara

By John Poimiroo | From Page: A4 | Gallery

 
.

Letters

$80M sheriff’s headquarters boondoggle

By Letters to the Editor | From Page: A5

 
Billboard

By Letters to the Editor | From Page: A5

Fiscal analysis? Absolutely

By Letters to the Editor | From Page: A5

 
Town hero to four-legged creatures

By Letters to the Editor | From Page: A5

Buying binge

By Letters to the Editor | From Page: A5

 
Wealth creation

By Letters to the Editor | From Page: A5

EID drought

By Letters to the Editor | From Page: A5

 
.

Sports

Schedule: Sept 1-7, 2014

By Democrat Staff | From Page: A6

 
Tribute to Tilford a wild one

By Bill Sullivan | From Page: A6

Cougars ‘cramp’ South Tahoe’s style

By Jerry Heinzer | From Page: A6

 
Oak Ridge opens with road win

By Democrat Staff | From Page: A6

 
Grizzlies dominate from start to finish

By Scott Warden | From Page: A6

D’backs record 48-0 shutout

By Brandon Anicich | From Page: A7

 
.

Prospecting

Lessons learned while roofing in paradise

By Wendy Schultz | From Page: B2 | Gallery

 
As we were: Drought issues

By Ken Deibert | From Page: B2

September is California Wine Month

By Wine Institute | From Page: B3

 
Film series starts with ‘Inequality for All’

By Coalition For Change | From Page: B3

Teen Court in Placerville invites new participants

By Health and Human Services Agency | From Page: B3

 
Sacworldfest kicks off arts season

By California State Unversity, Sacramento | From Page: B4

 
.

Essentials

Lake levels 8-29-14

By Michael Raffety | From Page: A2

 
Crime Log: Aug. 13-16

By Cole Mayer | From Page: A2

.

Obituaries

Aaron Robert Smith

By Contributor | From Page: A2

 
Kathleen Ann Wilkes

By Contributor | From Page: A2

.

Real Estate

.

Comics