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World's First Magma-Based Geothermal Energy System 161

Posted by Soulskill
from the just-pour-it-into-your-gas-tank dept.
Lucas123 writes: "The Iceland Deep Drilling Project (IDDP) announced it broke through to the Mantle and created a superheated steam pipe capable of producing power at the nearby Krafla Power Plant in Northern Iceland. The system was operational for several months until a malfunctioning valve forced its closure. The IDDP, however, plans to either reopen its first magma-based geothermal bore hole (PDF) — IDDP-1 — or drill another one at Reykjanes. While the IDDP-1 is not the first bore hole to reach the planet's magma, it is the first time an operation has been able to harness the mantle's heat to produce a steam pipe that could power a plant."
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World's First Magma-Based Geothermal Energy System

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  • by Gothmolly (148874) on Friday January 31, 2014 @05:53PM (#46123855)

    Have we learned nothing from science fiction?

    • by bondsbw (888959) on Friday January 31, 2014 @05:55PM (#46123877)

      There's nothing a well-placed nuke won't fix?

    • by pushing-robot (1037830) on Friday January 31, 2014 @05:55PM (#46123881)

      Obligatory. [dresdencodak.com]

    • by rossdee (243626) on Friday January 31, 2014 @06:06PM (#46123983)

      That if you go down far enough from Iceland, you will reach the Centre of the Earth?

      • by Rei (128717)

        Snæfellsjökull's melting should make it easier to find the entrance!

      • by dpilot (134227)

        I don't think you can really know where to start start before the Kalens of July.

    • by ackthpt (218170)

      They'll bring up the Balrog! Noozzz!

    • by Anonymous Coward
    • by Last_Available_Usern (756093) on Friday January 31, 2014 @06:16PM (#46124073)
      If gigantic seams that span the entire planet across the tectonic plates isn't enough to cause the planet to implode I doubt a few small holes will either.
    • by Mashdar (876825)

      I for one greet our new Lavos/Ragnaros/Dolomite Robot overlord.

    • Have we learned nothing from science fiction?

      Of course we've learned. How do you think we keep coming up with these ideas?

    • It sounds like a joke till this works really well and then everybody starts doing it.... ...and then they get bigger and bigger with more and more exponentially.... ...and then we discover what the unforeseen negative side effects caused by the unbelievably massive scale we are implementing this are... ...but we are too balls deep to stop now because all our economies depend on it so heavily.... ...so we angst about it and the pollys flap their mouth parts but corporations just keep on truckin on with busin

      • We know a whole lot more about geology now than we knew about ecology when we started burning coal, and then oil, for fuel. Not to say it's not risk-free--no method of power generation is--but you can be reasonably sure that the people running the project have carefully estimated both the costs and benefits.

        • by Rei (128717) on Friday January 31, 2014 @07:41PM (#46124715) Homepage

          Haha, actually it was accidental. When they broke through into a magma chamber, that wasn't the goal - they didn't realize they were that close, they were just trying to tap the hot rock near it. But after magma filled up the borehole a couple dozen meters, they decided to try to turn lemons into lemonade and produce steam... and it actually worked.

          But yeah, I think a lot of people have a gross misunderstanding how drilling works. You're not creating some big open hole that magma can just shoot up. If you tried that, the hole would collapse before you got very deep at all. Your hole is full of "mud" that is at least as high pressure as the surrounding rock. The gas isn't going to suddenly come out of solution and trigger an eruption when you drill into magma, you're not reducing the pressure on it.

          And I'm sure it's mentioned somewhere below, but whoever wrote this article is an idiot. The mantle isn't full of magma, it's solid. The crust is where magma is found They did not drill to the mantle, they drilled into a magma chamber.

          The only thing I learned from the article was that they plan to try the same thing in Reykjanes. I fully expect people to freak out, given that's where three quarters of our population lives ;) Also, I didn't know the stats on the sort of power they were getting out of that well... 36MWe of 450C steam from a single geothermal well is bloody insane. Hopefully this will prove to be economical and thus an incentive to stop destroying all of our rivers one after the next for hydroelectric power. : Oh, and I'm not surprised to learn that Alcoa was helping. There's three aluminum smelters here, and even the smallest of them uses more power than all of the homes and businesses combined. They built the largest hydroelectric plant in Europe (in the middle of the formerly-largest-undeveloped-wilderness in Europe) just to power a single smelter.

          • ...same thing in Reykjanes. I fully expect people to freak out, given that's where three quarters of our population lives ;)

            Is Reykjavik on the Reykjanes peninsula proper, or just next to it? (Sure, I'll give you Keflavik and Hafnarfjörður, but they ain't three quarters of the population. :D)

            Besides, the bits where they would be drilling would presumably be near the existing geothermal power plants, in the middle of hundreds of square kilometers of lava fields. The worst that could happen to this terrain already happened, and relatively recently (mostly in the last ten thousand years, and sometimes within the las

            • Since the Blue Lagoon is runoff from the existing steam power facility, more drilling means MORE Blue Lagoon, or something else like it...

              And for the people freaking out from the Science Fiction angle of drilling to where man has not been before, you will probably not be happy that people at the Blue Lagoon are every day smearing mud on their faces imbued with minerals and micro-organisms from the magmic deep.

              Besides, destruction of the Blue Lagoon would not deter tourists - we would still come for the tast

              • I was not freaking out.

                I was raising the question of what happens were we to scale this up to meet out energy needs.

                For example: trillions of tons of water per year causing cooling...

                Do you know for sure what will happen? I don't?

                I bet you don't either....

                • I was not freaking out.

                  But you are now?

                  It sure sounds like you are now, especially since I never claimed anyone was freaking out.

                  Chill, like the lava man!

                  Do you know for sure what will happen? I don't?

                  Yes I do. Nothing but abundant free power. Do you know how much magma is in a magma chamber? And they have been ALREADY doing this for a very long time. So the answer is already known.

                  Find the Blue Lagoon, have a swim and relax...

                • by Tokolosh (1256448)

                  Anthropogenic Global Cooling?

            • by Rei (128717)

              I've seen different maps define it differently, but most maps of Reykjanes include all the way up to Mosfellsbær (to go any further is to be on Kjalarnes). But then again, when most people want to talk about closer to Reykjavík they talk about either Reykjavík or Höfuðborgarsvæði... so I'm not sure if technically it's part. Either way, it's close. There are known magma chambers that are considered a threat to Reykjavík if they went off.

              These eruptions aren't little po

              • by Reziac (43301) *

                If you've got one coming up where it's not wanted, could drilling conceivably redirect it?

          • by Solandri (704621)

            Also, I didn't know the stats on the sort of power they were getting out of that well... 36MWe of 450C steam from a single geothermal well is bloody insane. Hopefully this will prove to be economical and thus an incentive to stop destroying all of our rivers one after the next for hydroelectric power.

            The number of places where you can do this above sea level is vanishingly small [wikipedia.org]. Iceland sits on a rift where two continental plates meet (theorized to be where an asteroid made a lucky hit and punctured th

        • So we know the effects of pouring trillions of tons of water into the ground per year cooling the magma layer over time by some amount and the effect this will have?

          Interesting. Have not read that paper.

          Again. Not being alarmist. Just thinking ahead and wondering - as any intellectually minded person does occasionally.

      • by tmosley (996283)
        As a resident of the United States, near the border of the Yellowstone caldera, I want this tech brought here and applied on as large a scale as possible, to drain some of that slowly but ever building explosive force.
      • by brianerst (549609)

        There's a certain ahistoric view of energy development that drives me nuts (not necessarily your comment, but it triggers my rant...)

        We have switched energy resources over the years not just because it was cheaper but because it was cleaner and more sustainable. We went from burning trees (deforesting entire countries and enveloping the land in smoke and soot), using animal power (leaving billions of metric tons of shit strewn throughout our cities, towns and villages) and using animal fat (nearly wiping ou

    • by Reziac (43301) *

      Like we might end up with a crack in the world?

      It's been done.

      https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/... [wikipedia.org]

  • Am I the only one thinking an entire plant should be more redundant and resilient than the failure of a single valve?

    • by MightyYar (622222)

      Your opinion is probably shared by many who didn't read TFA.

      • I read the TFA (both of them) myself, and didn't find any more details about the closing over the "failure of a single valve" than was in the summary. I will point out to the OP, that there may have very well been adequate redundancy and that the single valve failure mandated the shut down of the project not because it disabled it but because it removed the redundancy and they wouldn't operate without it.

        • by amicusNYCL (1538833) on Friday January 31, 2014 @06:33PM (#46124239)

          The plant didn't shut down. The plant is still operating with 30 or something other wells drilled. The new pipe itself was shut down, because of a failure in one of the valves in the pipe. The pipe was never connected to the plant. It seems entirely possible that a linear structure like a pipe can be shut down by a failure of a single valve. It's not like they can route around the failed valve. They're investigating ways to re-open the sealed pipe in addition to drilling others.

    • by fahrbot-bot (874524) on Friday January 31, 2014 @06:08PM (#46124005)

      Am I the only one thinking an entire plant should be more redundant and resilient than the failure of a single valve?

      FYI: The Death Star design team has a vacancy.

      • by CohibaVancouver (864662) on Friday January 31, 2014 @06:17PM (#46124083)

        The Death Star design team has a vacancy.

        Look, the target area is only *two meters* wide. It's a small thermal exhaust port, right below the main port. The shaft leads directly to the reactor system. Only a *precise* hit will start a chain reaction which would destroy the station. Plus, the shaft is ray-shielded, so they'll have to use proton torpedoes.

        That's impossible, even for a computer.

        • by fahrbot-bot (874524) on Friday January 31, 2014 @06:32PM (#46124221)

          The Death Star design team has a vacancy.

          Look, the target area is only *two meters* wide. It's a small thermal exhaust port, right below the main port. The shaft leads directly to the reactor system. Only a *precise* hit will start a chain reaction which would destroy the station. Plus, the shaft is ray-shielded, so they'll have to use proton torpedoes.

          That's impossible, even for a computer.

          Re-reading that dialog... Most of it sounds a little dirty.

          • by dead_user (1989356) on Friday January 31, 2014 @11:48PM (#46126071)
            You kidding me? Star Wars was nasty!

            Get in there you big furry oaf, I don't care what you smell!
            Luke, at that speed do you think you'll be able to pull out in time?
            Put that thing away before you get us all killed.
            You've got something jammed in here real good.
            Aren't you a little short for a stormtrooper?
            You came in that thing? You're braver than I thought.
            Sorry about the mess...
            Look at the size of that thing!
            Curse my metal body, I wasnt fast enough!
            She may not look like much, but she's got it where it counts, kid.
            I thought that hairy beast would be the end of me.
            Size matters not. Judge me by my size, do you?
            There's an awful lot of moisture in here.
            Thats okay, I'd like to keep it on manual control for a while.
            Hurry up, golden-rod...
            I must've hit it pretty close to the mark to get her all riled up like that, huh kid?
            It's possible he came in through the south entrance.
            And I thought they smelled bad on the outside!
            Control, control! You must learn control!
            Hey, point that thing someplace else.
            I look forward to completing your training. In time you will call me master.
            I never knew I had it in me.
            There is good in him, I've felt it.
            Hey, Luke, thanks for coming after me -- now I owe you one.
            Back door, huh? Good idea!
            She's gonna blow!
            I think youll fit in nicely.
            Rise, my friend.
            I'm sure he wasn't on that thing when it blew...
            Wedge! Pull out! Youre not doing any good back there!
        • The Death Star design team has a vacancy.

          Look, the target area is only *two meters* wide. It's a small thermal exhaust port, right below the main port. The shaft leads directly to the reactor system. Only a *precise* hit will start a chain reaction which would destroy the station. Plus, the shaft is ray-shielded, so they'll have to use proton torpedoes.

          That's impossible, even for a computer.

          Something something wamprats, something something dark side...

        • by ksandom (718283)
          Thumbwars reference [youtube.com]
        • by DarthVain (724186)

          Based on Stormtrooper accuracy I'd wager.

    • I can only imagine. The intense heat, highly corrosive environment will fail many valves that aren't stainless steel. Perhaps this one was? I don't know.

      • by Hadlock (143607)

        Probably using the same Halliburton designed-and-tested valve technology as "too big to fail" deep water horizon.

  • by NoNonAlphaCharsHere (2201864) on Friday January 31, 2014 @05:58PM (#46123913)
    Can someone with a thermodynamics background please explain to me how we can extract energy from Japanese cartoons?
  • I bet I can get them to pay me.... one million dollars... not to go through with this plan.

    • by Anonymous Coward

      This article is written poorly. They are confusing mantle with magma from an active volcanic field. The real mantle, which they even state is at least 8km thick, is not liquid either.

      Should be titled something like they drill into a magma chamber.

      Poor science writing.

  • by Anonymous Coward

    I was just reading up on this subject. Keep an eye open for spires of bright blue metal.

  • If only we can build enough of these, so they would cool the earth down and thus solve the global warming problem!
  • by Anonymous Coward

    Careful! Don't let the gravity out. It might deflate and flbrrbrrrt away.

  • 1.3 miles? (Score:5, Interesting)

    by tomhath (637240) on Friday January 31, 2014 @06:11PM (#46124027)

    Iceland's National Energy Authority has created the world's first magma-based geothermal energy system after drilling 1.3 miles (2,100 meters) through the Earth's crust.

    Could they have actually reached the mantle that close to the surface? I would believe they tapped into a volcano, but mantle doesn't sound right. Crust there is something like 15 km [norvol.hi.is]??

    • Re:1.3 miles? (Score:5, Informative)

      by chmod a+x mojo (965286) on Friday January 31, 2014 @07:19PM (#46124569)

      Iceland is currently rifting, so it is technically possible. From reading the article this isn't what has happened though.
      From what the article states they simply drilled to near the magma chamber of a volcano. I say "near" because in all likelihood that is what they did; If they had actually pierced the magma chamber there is an extremely high probability that it would trigger an eruption, especially after adding volatiles ( water for steam in this case ).

      Except for the said rifting, where the island is literally being torn apart from plates diverging, Iceland typically has eruptions somewhere in the middle of the scale from effusive ( think Hawaii, lava just kind of oozes or sprays out without producing huge plumes of ash) and the more violent explosive ( think yellowstone / mount st Helens / the classic huge cloud of ash and lightening volcanos ). Volatiles such as dissolved CO2 and H2O play an enormous part in controlling how violent an eruption is, basically more volatiles = more boom, and adding water to a magma chamber is not going to turn out pretty... do a quick search for Krakatoa to find out what happens ( supposedly anyways, it's what data suggest anyways) when you breach a magma chamber and add volatiles.

      Source: I'm starting my 3rd year undergrad as a Geologist, and plan to go to grad school focusing on Vulcanology....

      • by Rei (128717)

        So you think cooling down the magma (boiling water) increases the likelihood of an eruption? Do you think water will go through the pipe with enough pressure to break the pipe and rupture the surrounding rock, when they're controlling how much water they send down the pipe in the first place? You think dissolved gasses will come out faster somehow when they're doing nothing to reduce the pressure on the magma?

        There's no logical reason why such a borehole should trigger an eruption. It should overall decreas

        • by dbIII (701233)
          I think the poster above is writing about a steam explosion. I'm a bit skeptical that there would be enough steam to do much.
      • there is an extremely high probability that it would trigger an eruption

        Only in the movies :)
        Sure - a steam explosion give you a lot of energy but compare that to the weight of rock and magma above the steam explosion. Unless the thing is already on some sort of "hair trigger" requiring just a very small energy input to kick it off then it wouldn't trigger an eruption. High school physics will give you that. The more advanced stuff will let you know where that trigger is.
        I'm no geologist, I'm just a form

    • by khallow (566160)
      Well when you drill, it's generally through something. I doubt the journalist intended to imply that the drill actually made it all the way through. And there should be a bunch of near surface magma bodies in Iceland.
    • by rahvin112 (446269)

      The pressures present where the crust and mantle meet are intense. When drilling wells you need a lubricant to assist the drill and prevent the hole form collapsing. Heaving drilling mud is typically used.

      At the pressures that exist the mantle the drilling mud would be squeezed out (that is if it wasn't immediately baked solid) and you would need a much heavier denser liquid. It's been proposed that the only lubricant that would be heavy enough would be molten iron. So no, they didn't drill into the mantle.

  • This could potentially be a boon for Iceland's economy for heavy electrical use industry.

  • by Capt.Albatross (1301561) on Friday January 31, 2014 @06:17PM (#46124085)

    The IDDP's own reports on this project do not describe it as having reached the mantle. Other reports described it as having reached a magma chamber within the upper crust.

    • by Anonymous Coward

      The IDDP's own reports on this project do not describe it as having reached the mantle. Other reports described it as having reached a magma chamber within the upper crust.

      Yup. They reached a pocket of molten rock. They probably did not drill all the way through the crust to touch that big layer of mantle rock. Other stories are much better written.

    • by rk (6314)

      The CW article kind of confuses the two. But they didn't bore down to the mantle. The original news announcement doesn't even contain the world "mantle".

    • by rahvin112 (446269)

      Stupid people associate Magma with the Mantle. The Submitter is clearly one of them.

      There is no conclusive proof that we've ever obtained a piece of the mantle, fact is we don't know with certainty what's it's even made of (other than fluffy bunnies of course).

  • "the first bore hole to reach the planet's magma"

    Jedediah Leland: *hic* It's Friday quittin' time *hic* and I'm drunk *hic*. The only bore hole that deep I know *hic* is the mouth of a [insert political party you hate here].

  • This is one of those long-term sources of energy, like the sun, that will last forever, in practical terms, as when that power drys up, we are moving off planet anyway as we are in bigger trouble.

  • this tech will remain unexplored and unfinished for the next 100 years, when lifespan will have reverted back to mid 30' due to total pollution... nice...between magmatech and solar we could solve all probs, right here right now.... but no...head in the ass and keep marching...
  • We need a few hundred of these around the North American Hot Spot before the next time it blows its top.

    • by tomhath (637240)
      Maybe not Yellowstone, but there are plenty of other active volcanoes that would do. Italy could probably get a bunch of power from Mt. Etna and Mt Vesuvius [wikipedia.org]
  • by cptnapalm (120276) on Friday January 31, 2014 @07:46PM (#46124765)

    Between magma powered energy, government spy drones, the obesity problem with the corresponding fat acceptance demands and the militarization of the police, everything I learned about the future, I learned from reading Judge Dredd comics.

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