The secret of the “Gate of Hell”, the crater that never stops burning for more than 50 years


‘Door of hell’ What is a fire and why can’t it be put out?

70 m wide and nearly 20 m deep, the “Gate of Hell”, also known as the Dawaza Gas Pit, first appeared unexpectedly in 1971. Many theories suggest that the “gates of hell” were activated due to the Soviet drilling rig below. The gas field collapsed, causing leaks and spills of toxic methane. Soviet scientists decided to burn the hole, assuming that the gas in it only burned for a few weeks. However, the “Gate of Hell” has been burning continuously for more than 50 years and has even become one of the top tourist attractions in Turkmenistan.

However, some Turkmen geologists believe the crater was at least a decade before the Soviet Union burned it, and did not erupt until the 1980s. Turkmenistan is one of those isolated countries, second only to North Korea, so finding accurate information about this “gate to hell” is completely impossible.

Today, the “Gates of Hell” is a major tourist attraction for the few foreigners who ventured to the former Soviet republic. At the same time, the emission of large amounts of carbon dioxide and methane is also an environmental hazard, both of which are potent greenhouse gases that affect the health of residents in the area near the village of about 350 people.

The secret of the "Gate of Hell", the crater that never stops burning for more than 50 years

President Gurbanguly Berdymukhamedov, who has ruled Turkmenistan for decades, asked without success experts in 2010 to find a way to put out the fires. In early 2022, Berdymukhamedov appeared on state television, ordering his government to fire the “gates of hell” forever, claiming that the gas fires were affecting the environment and the health of nearby residents. The place gained internet fame in 2019 after President Berdymukhamedov posted a video of him driving through the desert near the burning crater.

The secret of the "Gate of Hell", the crater that never stops burning for more than 50 years

Turkmenistan is currently the leader in the world’s fourth largest natural gas reserves. The country’s economy is largely dependent on natural gas exports. At Darvaza, natural gas never seems to stop seeping into the crater, suggesting that the area below may contain significant reserves.

The secret of the "Gate of Hell", the crater that never stops burning for more than 50 years

As for greenhouse gas and methane leaks, those are also concerns, but stopping the “gates of hell” from burning won’t save the planet. One way of thinking about Darvaza fire pits is like another gas-fired power plant – there are hundreds of them all over the world. The worst natural gas spill in history is believed to be the 2016 explosion in California’s Aliso Canyon, which released nearly 100,000 tons of methane into the atmosphere, with a larger warming effect than the much-publicized BP Gulf oil spill in 2010 much more.

The secret of the "Gate of Hell", the crater that never stops burning for more than 50 years

According to monitoring firm Kayrros SAS, Turkmenistan accounted for 31/50 of the world’s largest methane emissions from onshore oil and gas operations in 2019. Turkmenistan’s total methane emissions are second only to Russia and the United States, Iran and Iraq, despite having a population of only six million.

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