The DOOR TO HELL is a natural gas field in Derweze (also spelled DARVAZE) Ahal Province, Turkmenistan, meaning GATE. The Door to Hell is noted for its natural gas fire, which has been burning continuously since it was lit by Soviet petroleum engineers in 1971. The fire is fed by the natural gas deposits in the area. The pungent smell of burning sulphur pervades the area for some distance. -The field is situated near the Derweze village. It is in the middle of the KARAKUM DESERT, about 260 kilometres north of ASHGABAT. The gas reserve here is one of the largest in the world. The name DOOR TO HELL was given, to the field, by the locals, referring to the fire, boiling mud and orange flames in the large crater, which has a diameter of 70metres. The ‘hot spots’ range over an area with a width of 60 metres and to a depth of about 20metres.
The site was identified by Soviet engineers in 1971. It was thought to be a substantial ‘oil field site.’ The engineers set up a drilling rig and camp nearby, and started drilling operations to assess the quantity of gas reserve available at the site. As the Soviets were pleased with the success of finding the gas resources, they started storing the gas. The ground, beneath the drilling rig and camp, collapsed into a wide crater and disappeared, however, no lives were lost in the incident.
Fearing further release of poisonous gases, fro the cavern, the engineers decided to burn the gas off. They believed that they would be safer to burn it than to extract it, from underground, through expensive methods. At that time, expectations were that the gas would burn out within a few weeks, but has continued more than four decades after it was set on fire. Explorer George Kourounis, became the first person to ever set foot at the bottom, gathering samples of extremophile micro-organisms. The episode was broadcast on the National Geographic Channel on 16th July, 2014.
In April, 2010, the President of Turkmenistan, Gurbanguly Berdimuhamedow, visited the site an ordered that the hole should be closed or measures be taken to limit its influence on the development of other gas fields in the area. Turkmenistan plans to increase its production of natural gas, intending to increase its export to Pakistan, China, India, Iran, Russia and Western Europe, from its present level to 75 million cubic metres —– in the next 20 years.