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Supercritical geothermal energy: risky magma drilling plan promises to revolutionize the sector. Discover the Krafla Magma Testbed project

16 May 2024 to 15: 35
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energy - renewable energy - geothermal energy - magma - peroration
Magma drilling: an audacious plan to bring geothermal energy to supercritical levels. Discover the Krafla Magma Testbed project and its revolutionary advances.

Magma drilling: an audacious plan to bring geothermal energy to supercritical levels. Discover the Krafla Magma Testbed project and its revolutionary advances.

      The Krafla Magma Testbed project promises to revolutionize geothermal research and renewable energy, opening up new possibilities for efficient production of clean energy. The Krafla Magma Testbed (KMT) project may be to geoscientists what the Large Hadron Collider has been to particle physicists.

      So say the researchers working on this innovative effort, whose goal is to drill into a magma chamber to explore massive geothermal potential.

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      Magma Drilling: Risky Plan to Bring Geothermal Energy to Supercritical Extremes

      In 2009, a research team in Iceland drilled into the ground above a known volcano. The original plan was to drill to a depth of 4,5 km, well above an identified magma chamber. However, they found the magma much earlier than expected, just 2 km away, where the team found an upper section of the chamber. The superheated magma plugged the well, damaged the drill and released toxic gases.

      A similar project was carried out in 2014 with comparable results: the drill impacted an unexpected magma chamber, and the acidic gases destroyed the equipment.

      Future Outlook

      These setbacks did not discourage the researchers. Finding magma at such a shallow depth makes it a more accessible goal, offering a great opportunity to study it and harness its thermal energy in more efficient geothermal energy plants.

      Therefore, the team decided to continue drilling within the KMT, which will be the first magma observatory in the world. With the collaboration of more than 40 institutions and companies from 11 countries, the project pursues three objectives:

      1. Study of Magma: Analyze magma and how it interacts with surrounding rocks to transfer heat from the Earth's crust.
      2. Direct Observation of the Volcanic System: Observing a volcanic system first-hand with the hope of improving techniques for monitoring, predicting and early warning of eruptions.
      3. Supercritical Geothermal Energy Production: Harnessing the heat of magma to significantly improve the efficiency of geothermal energy.

      Water in a Supercritical State: The Key to Energy Efficiency

      The attraction of magma lies in its ability to heat water to a supercritical state, when it exceeds 373 °C and is subjected to a pressure of 220 bars. This state, which is neither liquid nor gas, allows water to retain up to ten times more energy than in its normal form. Its use could transform the efficiency of geothermal production, making it a more viable clean energy source.

      Two-Phase Deployment

      Although it was initially scheduled for this year, Björn Þór Guðmundsson, from the KMT, confirmed that the start of the project will be divided into two phases: one in 2026 and the other in 2028. The first well will focus on volcanic research, and the second on energy.

      New Technologies for an Extreme Challenge

      KMT ensures that current equipment can withstand the extreme conditions encountered in previous attempts. Additionally, the team will work with the scientific community to develop sensors that withstand the extreme temperatures of magma, allowing direct measurements of its behavior.

      Source: kmt.is

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