Iceland Magma: Geothermal Energy Production Is Possible, Experts Say

Thursday, 06 Feb 2014 07:20 PM

By Morgan Chilson

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Engineers in Iceland have been studying the geothermal possibilities of a magma-filled chamber three miles below the surface after they accidentally drilled into it several years ago.

Since it was a rare event to reach magma, the engineers decided to leave the hole open and use it for geothermal research, and it's paying off.

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This week, researchers with the Iceland Deep Drilling Project published a study saying that the magma-filled chamber could definitely be used to improve geothermal energy production.

“The success of this drilling and research is amazing to say the least, and could in the near future lead to a revolution in energy efficiency in high-temperature geothermal areas of the world,” the researchers said, according to The Epoch Times.

Drilling into the molten magma, researchers pumped cold water into the hole and set steel casing in the bottom, which allowed the hole to blow “superheated, high pressure steam for months at temperatures over 450 degrees C,” the research detailed.

That beat the world record for geothermal heat, making the well the hottest and one of the most powerful in the world, the Epoch Times noted.

In normal geothermal situations, rocks heat water and produce steam, which drives turbines connected to electric generators. Oftentimes, sites need multiple bore holes to create significant amounts of power.

Iceland’s site is the first to produce steam from molten magma, rather than solid rock.

The single borehole sunk into magma created about 36 MW of power, which is more than half the 60MW that’s generated from a geothermal plant located nearby, the Daily Mail said.

One byproduct of the research is the idea that electricity generated from magma could develop a new geothermal method by “getting water to a supercritical state,” the Daily Mail said.

Iceland gets 65 percent of its energy from geothermal sources, and more than 90 percent of homes are heated with that alternative source.

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