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World's First Magma-Based Geothermal Energy System 161

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 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 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 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.

  • 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 ) 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.

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