homeenvironment NewsExplained: Why closing ‘Gates of Hell’ in Turkmenistan is good for environment

Explained: Why closing ‘Gates of Hell’ in Turkmenistan is good for environment

Explained: Why closing ‘Gates of Hell’ in Turkmenistan is good for environment
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By CNBCTV18.com Jan 18, 2022 7:31:22 AM IST (Published)

The Darvaza Crater, or the Gates of Hell, located in the middle of the Karakum Desert, has been burning natural gas for decades and is a notorious methane emitter.

Turkmenistan is looking at shutting down its infamous ‘Gates of Hell.’ Turkmenistan’s President, Gurbanguly Berdymukhamedov, had ordered authorities to find a solution to put out the fire that has now been burning for decades in the middle of the desert.

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The Darvaza Crater, or the ‘Gates of Hell’ as they’re known, is located in the middle of the Karakum Desert, around 260 km north of the country's capital, Ashgabat. The crater is 69m wide and 30m deep, with fires that have been raging since sometime in the 1970s-1980s.
Who started the fire?
Though many believe that the crater formed as a result of Soviet drilling experiments that went awry, no particular evidence has been found to indicate that the theory is true. What is known is that Turkmen geologists claim that the crater had formed in the 1960s but was only set aflame in the 1980s.
The crater is aflame due to the presence of natural gas that is constantly spilling into the crater, keeping the fire going. Natural gas is a prevalent resource in the country, with Turkmenistan having the sixth or fourth-largest reserve of natural gas in the world, varying with estimates.
Berdymukhamedov called the crater man-made and stated that the presence of the fire jeopardised other reserves nearby and also compromised the safety of individuals close to the area. The president also stated the negative environmental and health effects from the massive quantity of natural gas being burned in the open.
“We are losing valuable natural resources for which we could get significant profits and use them for improving the well-being of our people,” he said in a televised address.
Environmental impact
For the environment, the closing of the Darvaza Gas Crater will be a welcome relief. The crater is known to leak methane, a significant component of natural gas. But quite a significant proportion of the gas is able to escape without being lit aflame.
Methane is known to be around 80 times more powerful than carbon dioxide in terms of its greenhouse effect. But this effect is for the shorter time span, as methane degrades naturally in the atmosphere.
Turkmenistan is already one of the most significant methane emitters in the world, only behind Russia, the United States, Iran, and Iraq, according to the International Energy Agency. The closing of the gas crater will reduce the methane emission of the Central Asian nation to a certain extent.
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