New sinkholes appear in Yamal

Sinkholes could pose a serious danger to the expanding oil and gas industry in the Yamal Peninsula.

Another eight sinkholes have been discovered near the giant Bovanenkovo gas field in the Yamal Peninsula.


Scientists say they have discovered another eight sinkholes in a 10 km radius from the Bovanenkovo field. The craters are all located around the major hole discovered by oilmen in July 2014, reports.

The sinkholes could pose a serious challenge to the quickly expanding gas industry in the area. Gazprom has invested billions in the development of the Bovanenkovo field, the biggest gas structure in the peninsula with an estimated 4,9 trillion cubic meters of resources. A new railway now connects the field with the national rail grid, and a west-bound pipeline brings the gas to European buyers. 

That infrastructure could be put in jeopardy if more local craters appear.

Gazprom is in the process of developing several more gas fields in the area, and also other companies are heavily represented, among them Novatek in the Yamal LNG project and Gazprom Neft in the Novoportovsky project.

The first Yamal sinkhole made headlines all over the world. A crater with a diameter of up to 60 meter, the phenomenon was soon branded the Black Hole of Yamal. Scientists believe that the hole was created following the release of gas methane and subsequent collaps of permafrost. 

The eight new sinkholes are smaller in size than the one discovered in July last year. The researchers believe that the bigger sinkholes are likely to be surrounded by smaller ones, and are now mapping the peninsula in order to be able to predict the sites for new holes. 

As reported by BarentsObserver, the same release of methane is reaching major proportions in the nearby Kara Sea. The warmer climate is the driver of the process. Commenting on the situation, Alexei Portnov at Centre for Arctic Gas Hydrrate, Climate and Environment (CAGE) says that a sea temperature increase of two degrees “will accelerate the thawing to the extreme”, and subsequently boost methane emissions.