Being part of the mining area Herrerias in Andalusia, deep waters of Pit Lake Guadiana show extremely high concentration of dissolved carbon dioxide (CO2). In the case of a spontaneous ebullition, human beings close-by would be jeopardized.
To demonstrate the danger and the possible solution, scientists of the Spanish Institute of Geology and Mining, the University of the Basque Country (UPV/EHU, Bilbao) and the Helmholtz Centre for Environmental Research (UFZ) constructed a pilot plant for degassing. A fountain pulls deep water through a pipe to the surface, where the gas can escape from the water. The buoyancy produced by the bubbles provides the energy required for driving the flow.
The website for the press release (incl. photo) can be found at
„The deep water in the residual lake Guadiana contains an extremely high volume of carbon dioxide (CO2). Oxidation of ores has created a very acidic milieu, which is also known from other mining areas. In the mining area Herrerias however, this acidity dissolves carbonate from the rocks and produces carbonic acid (dissolved CO2), which can be accumulated under the high pressures of deep waters in the lake. There is not much circulation beyond 25 meter depth to remove the gas load" says Dr. Bertram Boehrer of UFZ, who is physicist and has been investigating stratification in lakes at many places on Earth.
Due to the high hydrostatic pressure, each liter of deep water contains about 2.5 liters of CO2 gas. As long as the stratification remains stable, the gas is retained in the deep water. A land slide or other processes producing large water movements could facilitate a sudden release of gas previously confined under high pressure. Inhaled air of 8 percent CO2 are considered deadly for humans.
Now the scientists installed a degasing pipe which is the heart of the new pilot plant: Deep water enters a pipe at 61m depth. On the way up, hydrostatic pressure drops and gas bubbles form. The reduced density of the water-gas-mixture allows that deep water is pushed out of the pipe at the upper end to form a fountain above the water table, where gas is released to the atmosphere. This is an elegant solution, as the system does not require any additional driver, and the controlled release of CO2 does not pose any problem.
„With this pilot plant, we could demonstrate that this approach also works in Guadiana pit lake. This can now be proposed to authorities as a possible approach to deal with the gas load." Though the lake in the mining area is fenced and access is not permitted to the public, this prohibition is difficult to survey.
Earlier installations in Lake Nyos in Cameroon served as a good example for this approach. In this lake, degassing pipes had been installed, which released the gas load with three fountains. On August 21st 1986, a large volume of gas escaped from the lake suddenly. The gas entered valleys of the surrounding area. 1700 human beings and thousands of animals were killed. The trigger could have been a land slide though this was never really proven. To avoid a repetition of this disaster, the gas load is slowly removed from the lake. One more crater lake called Monoun in Cameroon suffocated 37 human beings close to its shores in a similar eruption. Also in Monoun degasing fountains have been installed.
In Guadiana pit lake we do not see the same danger as in Lake Nyos, due to smaller size and depth. In addition, a density gradient between surface waters and deep waters is keeping the system stable. However, gas concentrations are so high that precaution must be taken. More detailed investigations must be implemented and remediation must be considered, says Dr. Boehrer. For the formation of such extreme gas loads, lakes must be sufficiently deep with incomplete winter recirculation (meromixis) and a strong carbon dioxide source. At the moment, we do not have such a lake in Germany.
Sánchez-España, J., Boehrer, B., Yusta, I. (2014): Extreme carbon dioxide concentrations in acidic pit lakes provoked by water/rock interaction. Environ. Sci. Technol. 48 (8), 4273 - 4281. http://dx.doi.org/10.1021/es5006797
Helmholtz Centre for Environmental Research (UFZ)
Dr. Bertram Boehrer
Tilo Arnhold, Susanne Hufe (UFZ press office)
Phone: ++49-341-235-1635, -1630
Proyecto de Investigación en Corta Guadiana (auf spanisch):
Impacts of climate change on lakes
In the Helmholtz Centre for Environmental Research (UFZ), scientists conduct research into the causes and consequences of far-reaching environmental changes. Their areas of study cover water resources, biodiversity, the consequences of climate change and possible adaptation strategies, environmental technologies and biotechnologies, bio-energy, the effects of chemicals in the environment and the way they influence health, modelling and social-scientific issues. Its guiding principle: Our research contributes to the sustainable use of natural resources and helps to provide long-term protection for these vital assets in the face of global change. The UFZ employs more than 1,100 staff at its sites in Leipzig, Halle and Magdeburg. It is funded by the federal government, Saxony and Saxony-Anhalt. http://www.ufz.de/
The Helmholtz Association contributes to solving major and urgent issues in society, science and industry through scientific excellence in six research areas: Energy, earth and environment, health, key technologies, structure of matter as well as aviation, aerospace and transportation. The Helmholtz Association is the largest scientific organisation in Germany, with 35,000 employees in 18 research centres and an annual budget of around €3.8 billion. Its work is carried out in the tradition of the great natural scientist Hermann von Helmholtz (1821-1894). http://www.helmholtz.de/
Dr. Bertram Boehrer | Helmholtz Centre for Environmental Research (UFZ)
AWI researchers measure a record concentration of microplastic in arctic sea ice
24.04.2018 | Alfred-Wegener-Institut, Helmholtz-Zentrum für Polar- und Meeresforschung
Climate change in a warmer-than-modern world: New findings of Kiel Researchers
24.04.2018 | Christian-Albrechts-Universität zu Kiel
At the Hannover Messe 2018, the Bundesanstalt für Materialforschung und-prüfung (BAM) will show how, in the future, astronauts could produce their own tools or spare parts in zero gravity using 3D printing. This will reduce, weight and transport costs for space missions. Visitors can experience the innovative additive manufacturing process live at the fair.
Powder-based additive manufacturing in zero gravity is the name of the project in which a component is produced by applying metallic powder layers and then...
Physicists at the Laboratory for Attosecond Physics, which is jointly run by Ludwig-Maximilians-Universität and the Max Planck Institute of Quantum Optics, have developed a high-power laser system that generates ultrashort pulses of light covering a large share of the mid-infrared spectrum. The researchers envisage a wide range of applications for the technology – in the early diagnosis of cancer, for instance.
Molecules are the building blocks of life. Like all other organisms, we are made of them. They control our biorhythm, and they can also reflect our state of...
University of Connecticut researchers have created a biodegradable composite made of silk fibers that can be used to repair broken load-bearing bones without the complications sometimes presented by other materials.
Repairing major load-bearing bones such as those in the leg can be a long and uncomfortable process.
Study published in the journal ACS Applied Materials & Interfaces is the outcome of an international effort that included teams from Dresden and Berlin in Germany, and the US.
Scientists at the Helmholtz-Zentrum Dresden-Rossendorf (HZDR) together with colleagues from the Helmholtz-Zentrum Berlin (HZB) and the University of Virginia...
Novel highly efficient and brilliant gamma-ray source: Based on model calculations, physicists of the Max PIanck Institute for Nuclear Physics in Heidelberg propose a novel method for an efficient high-brilliance gamma-ray source. A giant collimated gamma-ray pulse is generated from the interaction of a dense ultra-relativistic electron beam with a thin solid conductor. Energetic gamma-rays are copiously produced as the electron beam splits into filaments while propagating across the conductor. The resulting gamma-ray energy and flux enable novel experiments in nuclear and fundamental physics.
The typical wavelength of light interacting with an object of the microcosm scales with the size of this object. For atoms, this ranges from visible light to...
13.04.2018 | Event News
12.04.2018 | Event News
09.04.2018 | Event News
25.04.2018 | Physics and Astronomy
25.04.2018 | Materials Sciences
25.04.2018 | Studies and Analyses