Secrets of gas detection: the Methane (CH4) spewing crater of Derweze
Last time we wrote about the gates of hell in Hierapolis, Turkey. This time we are telling you the story about a totally different phenomenon which can still be visited today: the crater of Derweze. Long story short: they were looking for natural gas and they found it (Methane).
In 1971, Soviet geologists punched through the crust of the Karakum Desert about seven kilometres (four miles) outside of the little village of Derweze.
The drilling rig hit a large natural cavern filled with gas, which promptly collapsed, taking down the rig and possibly some of the geologists as well, though those records remain sealed. A crater approximately 70 meters (230 feet) wide and 20 meters (65.5 feet) deep formed and began spewing Methane into the atmosphere.
Methane (CH4) is the foremost compound of natural gas, which most of the times is located in between the rock formations and the crude oil. In the 20th century we used to burn it to get to the oil. Nowadays like with everything we have found multiple uses for it and extract it out of the ground to for example warm our houses and for cooking. Methane is one of the larger contributions to global warming and therefor is measured in the industry and livestock housing.
Even in that era, before concerns about methane's role in climate change and its potency as a greenhouse gas had hit world consciousness, it seemed like a bad idea to have poisonous gas leaking from the ground in huge quantities near a village. The Soviet scientists decided that their best option was to burn off the gas by lighting the crater on fire. They accomplished that task by tossing a grenade into the hole, anticipating that the fuel would run out within the week.
That was more than four decades ago, and the crater is still burning. Its glow is visible from Derweze each night. Fittingly, the name "Derweze" means "gate" in the Turkmen language, so locals have dubbed the burning crater the "Gate to Hell."
Although it is a slow-burning ecological disaster, the crater has also become one of Turkmenistan's few tourist attractions, drawing adventurous souls out into the Karakum, where summer temperatures can hit 50ºC (122ºF) without any help from the Derweze fire.
Like with all flammable gasses we want to detect because they can be quite hazardous. We can use either a catalytic LEL sensor or an infrared sensor. These both have their advantages and short comings of the technology. My colleague Karel wrote a blog about it a while ago.
A great example to keep yourself save whilst working with either Methane or another natural gas, is to use a WatchGas QGM or an Industrial Scientific MX4. Both devices keep you safe and offer a great amount of quality for a nice price. Also good to know: both devices are available at 7Solutions in Gas Detection.
In need of Methane (CH4) detection? We gladly advise you regarding the best gas detection solutions for any application you might have! Get in touch for more information.