Icelandic project aims to drill into a volcano to access unprecedented geothermal power

The hottest temperatures ever reached by a geothermal project could happen as early as 2026 in Iceland, where the Krafla Magma Testbed (KMT) aims to tap into the Krafla volcano’s magma chamber to access super-hot fumes.

If successful, the article states that this project could promise immense geothermal energy at an unprecedented scale for Iceland’s population, at least ten times more power than conventional geothermal plants.

Iceland’s geological landscape, shaped by its active volcanic activity, has aligned the island nation as a global leader in utilizing geothermal resources. Currently, approximately 90 percent of Icelandic homes are heated by geothermal energy while 70 percent of all energy used in Iceland is from a geothermal source.

The primary aim of the KMT project is to access “supercritical” water located at the cusp of these magma chambers, which is water in a state that is neither liquid or steam due to intense temperatures and pressure.

Several benefits have the potential to be born from KMT’s demonstration. Drilling mechanics that can withstand extreme temperatures could have near boundless potential in the geothermal landscape. Another benefit would be the advancement of tools for volcanic monitoring and eruption prediction. It may provide an opportunity to observe a volcanic eruption from its source, as volcanologists have long relied on indirect methods to study magma.

The Krafla volcano is located in the northeast section of the island nation, and it’s infamous for being one of the world’s most active volcanic areas. The temperatures of its magma chambers reach approximately 1,300°C, which presents a monumental challenge in creating technology that can withstand such temperatures. However, the article states that drilling to access it remains fairly easy, as the chamber only lies up to 3.2 kilometres beneath the surface.

Comparatively, Eavor’s deepest directional geothermal well, Eavor-Deep™, reached depths of over 5 kilometres. Despite not encountering molten rock, the drilling operation faced temperatures up to 250°C, showcasing the robustness of Eavor’s insulated drill pipe and shock cooling technology. This innovation proved instrumental in preserving the mechanical integrity of drill bits under extreme high-temperature conditions.

As geothermal technology continues to advance, the KMT project represents a pivotal step towards unlocking further potential of geothermal energy, offering near-boundless and clean energy for Iceland and beyond.

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