Extending and refining the potential of Geo-thermal energy source via magma-molten rock

Volcanic substance can be a source of production of electricity, it seem as an encouraging sign. Basically, we have heard that our earth is an enormous source of energy, the core of earth is like a nuclear reactor that is generating the heat from breakdown of radioactive element such as thorium, potassium, and uranium. Scientists are harnessing this energy in order to drive the power turbines for the purpose of generation of electricity.

Iceland contributed towards the idea:


The first step of this invention was laid down in the Iceland, in the year 1985, a group of workers while drilling for a geothermal well, found out a sudden and uncontrollable blast of a high pressure steam. From this incident, the scientists found out that the steam originated from a reservoir of the water which is under such pressure that as it begins to boil, the water is not able to expand adequately to become the vapor and stays in the liquid like state. In such a “supercritical state”, water consists of large amounts of energy. Water attains this state as it reaches the 222 bars of pressure and 374°C or above, and flashes into the steam when the pressure drops since water rises to the surface.

It has been evaluated that supercritical wells may potentially yield 10 times of energy compared to that produced by the typical geothermal well, which yields 5 to 10 MW of electricity. After this incident, scientists and the Icelandic government, also along with an international consortium of energy firms have invested over $22 million into this project of figuring out if it is feasible to tap into a potentially abundant resource which packs 10 times the amount of energy as heated steam.

IDDP- Icelandic Deep Drilling Project (2011):

For this, the Icelandic Deep Drilling Project (IDDP) was initiated; it was an association of the energy companies and the scientists. Scientists had started the drilling process for theorized supercritical fluid wells when they hit a pocket of the magma. Molten rock completely ruined their equipment; this had made them to realize that this intense heat could really boost the production capability of geothermal well.


Since the equipments of the team get ruined, another approach was adopted in which the magma will not be used directly instead they could easily access the super heated bed near the magma and utilize its steam to run the turbine or make the artificial steam by injecting water from the surface. In the year 2011, the researchers completed the well immediately above the magma, where the temperature was not 900°C. Even then, it has produced the superheated steam and 35 MW of electricity at 500°C (estimated).

Amount of the electricity that is generated at a plant depends upon the number of variables, involving the amount of water that is being heated and funnelled per minute and how proficient the system is at transforming that energy into the electricity. The energy produced through this is quite enough to power around 9,000 homes (approximately) at any given moment.

Challenges faced during project:

With this experiment for the first time, researchers proved that it was possible to generate the supercritical geothermal wells enhanced by the magma. However this research faced too many faults and failures, IDDP 2011 well suffered mechanical failure after within 2 years of use. It requires strong tools that withstand such typical temperature and also finding the appropriate location was also a problem since finding the magma bed was also quite tough task; it’s like finding a needle in a haystack.

At bedrock of volcano, heat which is trapped inside the molten rock burns at a consistent temperature of 900 to 1,000 degrees Celsius. This viscous substance potency is lost the moment it flows out from tip of a volcano in form of the lava, with atmosphere applying a cooling effect which changes the composition of the molten rock significantly. Problem is that striking magma occurs rarely, researchers were not having much opportunity to work out for the reliable method in order to tap its vast potential.

This project of IDDP is succeeding along with the other supercritical geothermal wells located in the Iceland, and similar projects are on a development way in New Zealand and the Japan.

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