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Iceland Drills Heart of a Volcano to Access Clean Energy from Magma

May 06, 2017 09:38 AM EDT
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Iceland has completed a drilling project to harvest energy from magma. The drilling paved a way for engineers to harvest clean energy using turbines.
(Photo : Spencer Platt/Getty Images)

Iceland is known to develop technologies in order to harness clean energy from the Earth or geothermal energy since the 1970s. Now, the country has wittingly named a rig called "Thor" that's designed to drill into the heart of a volcano to access clean energy.

The experiment, tagged as the Iceland Drilling Project, aims to produce about 10 times more energy compared to conventional energy sources today such as oil and gas. The clean energy will come from the heat stored in the heart of the volcano.

Iceland is a volcano-rich island known to produce geothermal and hydrothermal energy. The country is also working with Britain to study the possibility of building an IceLink Cable to power British homes.

"The [possibility of increasing geothermal energy supply in Iceland] would most certainly be a boost to the proposed plan as there were worries on the effect on local prices with increased exports," Wayne Bryan, an analyst at the British Alfa Energy consultancy, said in an interview with Reuters.

The Iceland Drilling Project started in August of 2016 and was completed earlier this year. They dug up a total depth of 4,659 meters into the heart of a volcano. The magma or hot liquids from the heart of the volcano is believed to be at 427 degrees Celcius.

The access to clean energy will allow Iceland to harvest power from the magma's heat. The steam from the magma has extreme pressure and is capable of turning a turbine in order to generate clean energy. Iceland expects that this new process would generate more energy compared to previous technologies due to the depth of the drilling, which will allow engineers to access extremely hot core in the form of a "supercritical" fluid that's neither gas nor liquid.

"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, said in a statement.

The project is also expected to supply more energy to residents around Iceland like in the capital, Reykjavik. The new drilling system will allow the harvest and distribution of more clean energy at a much lesser cost. Today, scientists and engineers involved in the "Thor" drill project still have two years to analyze the feasibility of the experiment.

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