Natural Gas in Siberia Is Not That Deep in the Ground?!

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    Feb 27, 2015 10:55 PM GMT
    ...satellite images have revealed at least four more craters, and at least one is surrounded by as many as 20 mini craters, The Siberian Times reported. [See Photos of Siberia's Mysterious Craters]

    "We know now of seven craters in the Arctic area," Vasily Bogoyavlensky, a scientist at the Moscow-based Oil and Gas Research Institute, told The Siberian Times. "Five are directly on the Yamal Peninsula, one in Yamal autonomous district, and one is on the north of the Krasnoyarsk region, near the Taimyr Peninsula."

    Now, two of the craters have turned into lakes, satellite images reveal. A crater called B2, located 6.2 miles (10 kilometers) south of Bovanenkovo, a major gas field in the Yamalo-Nenets autonomous district, is now a large lake ringed by more than 20 smaller water-filled craters.

    But Bogoyavlensky thinks there may be many more. He called for further investigation of the craters, out of safety concerns for the region. "We must research this phenomenon urgently, to prevent possible disasters," he said.

    Trapped gases

    Although the origin of these craters remains somewhat mysterious, many scientists think they were created by explosions of high-pressure gas released from melting permafrost, or frozen soil, due to the warming of the climate.

    "In my opinion, it definitely relates to warming and permafrost," said Vladimir Romanovsky,a geophysicist who studies permafrost at the University of Alaska Fairbanks.

    Romanovskythinks he knows how this occurs: Pressurized gas — mostly methane, but possibly carbon dioxide as well — exists beneath the permafrost. Since warming temperatures thaw the permafrost from the bottom up, an underground cavity forms, Romanovsky said. As the gas gets close to the surface, it deforms the ground above, creating a small hill. Finally, the pressurized gas erupts through the surface, forming a crater, he said.
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    Feb 27, 2015 11:35 PM GMT
    It's possible for methane clathrate/hydrates to form in permafrost. Think of it as a kind of ice slushy of water, methane, and carbon dioxide. It's only stable in a narrow window of temperature and pressure. If the temperature warms up only a little bit, the stuff can melt and cause a blow-out. (The volume of the trapped gas is much greater than the volume of the chlathrate.) Also, enough permafrost melting at the surface can reduce pressure down where the clathrates are, and make them suddenly unstable.

    It's a big hazard in taking drill cores of ocean sediment on the continental margins. You hoist the core up onto the ship and unless you open it right away, before the pressure builds up, you've created a bomb.