Experts warn gas pipes are in real danger from exploding tundra

By Thomas Nilsen, The Independent Barents Observer - July 26, 2017

Russia’s leading expert on methane explosions on the tundra, Professor Vasily Bogoyavlensky, tells the Siberian Times that in some places swelling tundra jacks up gas pipes.

“In a number of areas pingos – we see both from satellite data and with own eyes during helicopter inspections – they literally prop up gas pipes,” says Professor Bogoyavlensky.

[Reindeer herders on Yamal tundra witness likely methane explosion]

His analysis show gas pipelines running over the swelling tundra on the Yamal Peninsula. The region has Russia’s largest and most important natural gas fields and is key to supplying Europe.

YAMAL PENINSULA, RUSSIA - JUNE 18, 2015: Helicopter expedition to the giant funnel of unknown origin. Crater view. (Getty)
A 2015 file photo shows a large newly-formed crater in Russia’s Yamal region. (Getty)

The unstable tundra is due to the release of underground methane that had been frozen in permafrost, but is now thawing due to rapidly rising temperatures in the Arctic. Over the last three years, several methane explosions in the Yamal region have created huge craters, some up to 50 meters (about 165 feet) deep and tens of meters in diameter.

The Siberian Times points to one recent explosion where permafrost soil was thrown around a kilometer from the epicenter of the blast. Flames shot into the sky, and a 50 meter-deep crater was formed from the eruption, the newspaper reports.

Experts evaluating the recent findings say the risk of more explosions under gas supply pipelines “is clearly acute.”