Iceland Is Drilling Four Kilometers Into A Volcano To Produce Clean Energy


Dr. Alfredo Carpineti

Senior Staff Writer & Space Correspondent

clockMay 8 2017, 14:12 UTC

The geothermal region of Hverir in Iceland. Aretha Koi/Shutterstock

A powerful drill project in Iceland, named "Thor" after the god of thunder, has reached the impressive depth of 4.659 kilometers (2.89 miles) in a cutting edge approach to getting clean geothermal energy. The project is expected to generate up to 10 times more energy than conventional methods by drilling into a volcano in the Reykjanes region.


The drilling was completed on January 25 of this year, and now the team behind Thor has two years to establish feasibility and the cost of this facility. The experiment is officially known as the Icelandic Deep Drilling Project, beginning in August last year. It takes advantage of the incredibly high temperature and pressure that water is subjected to at those depths.

Thermometers at those depths easily reach 427°C (800°F) and the pressure is above two hundred atmospheres. The unique conditions found down there allow the water to be a supercritical fluid, something that’s neither gas nor liquid. It is a peculiar in-between that behaves as both, effusing through solid objects and still dissolving substances like a liquid.

Most power stations produce electricity through the movement of turbines, and supercritical water reactors are a well-tested upcoming technology that could produce more electricity than conventional ones.

"We expect to get five to 10 times more power from the well than a conventional well today," Albert Albertsson, an engineer at the Icelandic energy company HS Orka, involved in the drilling project, told AFP.


To power a medium-sized city like Reykjavik and provide hot water for its 212,000 inhabitants would require between 30 and 35 conventional high-temperature wells. But the team estimates that between three and five supercritical wells could get the same job done.

Iceland is currently the only country in the world with 100 percent renewable electricity, with geothermal energy accounting for 25 percent of their output. While this is an incredible result, booming industries, cars, and tourism produce a huge amount of CO2 and Iceland still might not make the Paris Climate Agreement targets.

[H/T: AFP]

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