Magma photo from Shutterstock

The Iceland Deep Drilling Project (IDDP) has been drilling wells in search of high temperature geothermal resources, and one of those wells – a borehole drilled at Krafla in northeastern Iceland – unexpectedly hit molten magma. Fortunately, the team was able to control it, and the borehole “essentially created the world’s first magma-enhanced geothermal system,” said UC Riverside geology professor Wilfred Elders, who edited the January edition of the international journal Geothermics. Elders says: “This unique engineered geothermal system is the world’s first to supply heat directly from a molten magma.”

geothermal, molten magma, Iceland, Krafla, renewable energy, steam, heat, Iceland Deep Drilling ProjectdImage via Kristján Einarsson

The well was drilled at Krafla in 2008 and 2009, and it reached molten magma at a depth of 2,100 meters, with a temperature of 1,652 degrees to 1,832 degrees Fahrenheit (900 degrees to 1,000 degrees Celsius). The IDDP worked with Iceland’s National Power Company (operator of the Krafla geothermal plant) to investigate the hole further, given the rare occurrence of drilling down into magma. The only other recorded instance of reaching magma happened in Hawaii in 2007. The team conducted research and testing over the next two years in the controlled environment.

The team was able to beat the world record for geothermal heat when they created high-pressure steam at temperatures over 842 degrees Fahrenheit (450 degrees Celsius) – that’s enough to generate up to 36 megawatts of electricity. The installed capacity of the Krafla power plant is 60 megawatts.

Geothermal is a renewable energy source that is virtually emissions free because only steam is emitted from geothermal facilities. Geothermal provides around 65 percent of Iceland’s energy demand.

“In the future, the success of this drilling and research project could lead to a revolution in the energy efficiency of high-temperature geothermal areas worldwide,” Elders said.

+ Geothermics

+ Iceland Deep Drilling Project

Via UCR Today