Wednesday, Jul 26 2017
All Cities
Choose Your City
'If you emptied Lake Baikal, it would take every river in the world flowing into it a year to fill.'
Mike Carter, The Observer, 2009

Gas pipelines supplying Europe 'in real danger from exploding tundra' - top scientist

By The Siberian Times reporter
10 July 2017

Pipes are built over bulging and unstable Arctic pingos prone to violent eruptions caused by 'thawing methane gas', as seen twice on the Yamal peninsula this year.

Yerkutinskaya funnel. Picture: Aleksandr Sokolov 

New analysis by satellite and helicopter shows  gas pipelines run right over swelling tundra which is deeply unstable due to the release of underground methane that had been frozen in permafrost - now thawing - for thousands of years, revealed Russia's leading expert on the new phenomenon, Professor Vasily Bogoyavlensky.

In one recent explosion, permafrost soil was thrown around 1 kilometre from the epicentre of the blast, highlighting the huge force, scientists discovered.

Flames shot into the sky, and a 50 metre-deep crater was formed from the eruption. 

The process is seen as caused by the warming Arctic climate and has vast implications for the energy industry in polar regions.

Pipes are built over bulging and unstable Arctic pingos prone to violent eruptions caused by 'thawing methane gas', as seen twice on the Yamal peninsula this year.
Seyakhinskaya funnel. Picture: Yamal Region  


Gas from Yamal is crucial to both Russia and the European energy system, with exports in particular to Poland and Germany. 

Some 7,000 pingos - scientific name hydrolaccoliths - have been identified in Yamal, and one estimate is that some 700 of these mounds could be prone to eruptions.

Most are harmless but the difficulty for experts is identifying which are dangerous.

'In a number of areas pingos - we see  both from satellite data with own eyes during helicopter inspections - they literally prop up gas pipes,' said the professor. 

'I would even use another term - in some places they jack up gas pipes. 

'Do you understand? They seem to begin to slightly bend these pipes.'

Pipes are built over bulging and unstable Arctic pingos prone to violent eruptions caused by 'thawing methane gas', as seen twice on the Yamal peninsula this year.


Pipes are built over bulging and unstable Arctic pingos prone to violent eruptions caused by 'thawing methane gas', as seen twice on the Yamal peninsula this year.


Pipes are built over bulging and unstable Arctic pingos prone to violent eruptions caused by 'thawing methane gas', as seen twice on the Yamal peninsula this year.


Pipes are built over bulging and unstable Arctic pingos prone to violent eruptions caused by 'thawing methane gas', as seen twice on the Yamal peninsula this year.


Pipes are built over bulging and unstable Arctic pingos prone to violent eruptions caused by 'thawing methane gas', as seen twice on the Yamal peninsula this year.
Yerkutinskaya and Seyakhinskaya funnels. Pictures: Aleksandr Sokolov, Yamal region  


Experts say villages and towns are also under threat, but the risk of explosions under gas supply pipelines is clearly acute. 

Alexander Mazharov, deputy head of the governor of Yamalo-Nenets autonomous region, said: 'It is cleat that it was not a meteorite, but gas emission.'

The explosion was in an Arctic river, and it was immediately submerged with water.  

'We did a good job as we took samples of water, soil and air. Now it is time for laboratories to give us results of analyses,' he said. 

Gas pipelines supplying Europe 'in real danger from exploding tundra' - top scientist

Professor Vasily Bogoyavlensky. Picture: Vesti Yamal 


Another crater - or funnel - that was found same week is called Yerkutinskaya. This is up to 10 metres in diameter and visible depth is 30 metres. 

'Based on satellite data, we have marked 7,000 bulges (pingos) - or even more,' said Bogoyavlensky, deputy director of the Oil and Gas Research Institute, Moscow.

'It doesn't mean that every pingo carries danger but it is still clear that we can draw certain conclusions. 

'Locals calls these bulges 'bugunyakhs'. In the West they are called pingos.'

Gas pipelines supplying Europe 'in real danger from exploding tundra' - top scientist


Gas pipelines supplying Europe 'in real danger from exploding tundra' - top scientist


Gas pipelines supplying Europe 'in real danger from exploding tundra' - top scientist
Scientists now believe that Yamal's landscape - pockmarked by round-shaped lakes - was substantially caused by this process over hundreds of years. 

This means it was not solely the recent 'global warming' that was responsible but more subtle rhythms of melting every decade with the Arctic Ocean ice cover melting by some 14%.

But it is only in the past three years that the formation of the new craters has been witnessed. 

In the case of the most recent explosion - now named Seyakhinskaya - it was witnessed by herders, and reindeer and dogs were seen fleeing in terror - see our previous report here.

Ice inside hydrolaccoliths thaws under the influence of high air temperature, say scientists.  Water takes less volume, while the vacant space is filled with a gas mixture, substantially methane. 

When the gas pressure inside the dome begins to exceed the pressure of the soil layer on the surface, gas gets out. 

Usually this happens as an emission, but in some cases, there is a fierce explosion. 

Trembling tundra of the Yamal Peninsula. Video credit Aleksandr Sokolov

Dr Bogoyavlensky believes the explosions are similar to the under-ocean eruptions of methane that caused the so-called Bermuda Triangle. 

The Yamal peninsula is now one of the world's key sites for production of natural gas for residential and industrial supplies, notably to Western Europe, for example by Gazprom.

Currently, there are three seismic stations on the Yamal peninsula, in Sabetta, Bovanenkovo and Kharasavey. 

Scientists believe at least six  permanent stations are required, with three more located in Urengoy, Bely island and Salekhard. 

The issue of Yamal tundra explosions is to addressed at the next meeting of the Russian government's state commission on exploration of the Arctic. 

Map of the newest Yamal funnels, and pictures of the funnel known as F1, registered in 2014. Pictures: The Siberian Times, Vasily Bogoyavlensky 

Gas pipelines supplying Europe 'in real danger from exploding tundra' - top scientist


Gas pipelines supplying Europe 'in real danger from exploding tundra' - top scientist


Gas pipelines supplying Europe 'in real danger from exploding tundra' - top scientist


Gas pipelines supplying Europe 'in real danger from exploding tundra' - top scientist


Gas pipelines supplying Europe 'in real danger from exploding tundra' - top scientist


Gas pipelines supplying Europe 'in real danger from exploding tundra' - top scientist

Comments (5)

I wonder if there are the equivalent of bugunyakhs or pingos under the sea? What with the sea temperature rising in the shallow seas off the coast of Siberia we could get much bigger methane burps without knowing it. Keep checking the methane levels!
Rashid Mostafa, Katoomba, Australia
24/07/2017 13:02
0
0
Would it pay to have large helicopters bring in drill pads and drill equipment to tap those hills before they blow? Russians are really smart and maybe a small compressor station could be created. The force that is required to blow out that much frozen dirt and permafrost means there is a lot of methane underground.
Frank Newman, Ft Smith, USA
22/07/2017 04:32
0
0
I think same Professor should get the Kremlin to tell a certain Mr Trump whom they are overly friendly with, that Climate Change exists & is for real.
Jaker, Dundalk
13/07/2017 06:44
3
0
"Scientists now believe that Yamal's landscape - pockmarked by round-shaped lakes - was substantially caused by this process over hundreds of years."

Yes, finally mainstream scientists are coming to this opinion. But this pockmarked topography covers hundreds of thousands of square kilometers of Siberia, and small areas of Canada.

Are these blowouts due to relic methane hydrate, or simple gas production by melting permafrost? Drilling rig blowouts from methane gas are common in these gas fields at 50-200 meters, suggesting a layer of relic hydrate left over from glaciations 90,000 years ago.
Leland Palmer, Santa Rosa / California / USA
11/07/2017 21:51
2
0
with a gazillion tonnes of methane just off the coast/shoreline, should something happen to ignite a fire, could you safely evacuate you and everyone in your family, to a point below 46 degrees latitude in 96 hours? when the methane fire is ignited, the result will be quite a surprise.
bernie, 30 degrees north/90 degrees west
11/07/2017 14:36
0
0
1

Add your comment

We welcome a healthy debate, but do not accept offensive or abusive comments. Please also read 'Siberian Times' Privacy Policy

Name

Town/Country

Add your comments

The views expressed in the comments above are those of our readers. 'Siberian Times' reserves the right to pre-moderate some comments.

Control code*

Type the code

* obligatory


News

Business

The Bank of Russia official exchange rates of foreign currencies
EUR69.68USD59.91GBP78.06Other...