The media have a tendency to over-egg things; it would be fair to say that they have a penchant for hyperbole, of that there’s no doubt. When they coined Turkmenistan’s Darvaza gas crater the Gates of Hell, it’s fair to say that they had a point. Still visited by countless tourists today – though perhaps not amidst a global pandemic – the Darvaza gas crater is one of the most interesting and visually striking phenomena found in the world today.
The team here at TriStone Holdings, a UK oil investment company, wanted to explore the history of the crater in a bit more detail. We’ll tell you now – it’s quite the history!
Turkmenistan is a country situated in Central Asia bordered by Kazakhstan, Uzbekistan, Afghanistan, Iran and the Caspian Sea. It’s been an important place throughout history with its cities featuring heavily along the iconic Silk Road which facilitated trade for almost 1500 years.
Having become independent from Soviet rule at the start of the 1990s, Turkmenistan is a country full of culture – something stemming from that Silk Road history – and has had an especially interesting recent history with some of its rulers who fall on the – how shall we say – more eccentric end of the spectrum?
Why it’s interesting to us in the context we’re viewing it today, however, is that it also houses the world’s fourth largest reserves of natural gas. And that’s important why, exactly? Well, let us tell you!
The Darvaza Gas Crater
First identified as a potential oil field site by Soviet geologists and engineers back in the early 1970s, the Soviets decided to investigate and carry out some preliminary tests. Those initial surveys found not oil at the site but a huge pocket of natural gas. Shortly after, the ground beneath the drilling rig as well as the surrounding camp collapsed. This formed a crater of over 5,000 square metres in area. For better visualisation, that’s about the same area as a standard American Football pitch…
Fearing a widespread release of toxic gases into the surrounding towns and villages, a recommendation was made to set the natural gas alight – to literally burn it off. So, that’s what they did, they set the whole crater ablaze!
Did It Work?
Well, yes but also no. Yes, in the sense that it did prevent the spread of gases. And no? It was thought that the gas would all burn off within a few days, or at longest perhaps a few weeks. The gas emanating from the Darvaza gas crater still burns today, however, over half a century later. And thus arose the moniker the Gates of Hell. It was titled as such because of the burning subterranean display that can be seen especially vividly at night.
Not The Only One…
The area is now popular for tourists and thrill seekers alike, but the reality is that sites such as these aren’t quite as unique as you might expect. So-called burning ground sites can actually be found all over the world, including the underground fire in Centralia, in the United States, which has been burning in a former coal mine since 1961.
Although not visible from the surface, its effects certainly are. Pennsylvania can get pretty cold; in fact, sections of the closed-off road near the underground mine fire remain barren of snow whilst slightly further away, there’s blankets of the stuff in winter!
Although visually impressive (I’d prefer not to get too close, myself…) here at TriStone Holdings, we’re more interested in oil exploration. We’re particularly focused on exploration and production in the USA and are currently focused on the Cherokee Basin, in Kansas. We’ve written extensively on a variety of topics relating to the oil and gas sector,; from automation through to new technologies and from health and safety to the tightening of environmental standards. If you’d like to read these pieces, then visit our Insights page, here!
So, if you’d like to find out more about our work as an oil investment company, then get in touch! Contact TriStone Holdings today on 0800 055 7079 or by emailing us at [email protected] If you’d like to find out more about our portfolio and acquisitions, then click here!