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Geothermal Energy
Scientists Drill Record Bore in Iceland

When last we checked in on Iceland, researchers were nearing a major milestone for a project that could have some very big implications for the energy security of the island nation. Back in December, a drill bore reached depths of almost 4,500 meters (just shy of three miles) into the earth’s crust in order to access a special kind of water vapor called “supercritical steam.” Now, as the BBC reports, the project has broken a new milestone: at 4,659 meters deep, it’s the deepest volcanic bore hole ever drilled:

The aim had been to reach a depth 5,000m, where the temperatures were expected to reach about 500C…[but as] the geologists neared their 5,000m target, the drilling got more difficult, and the team decided to halt the operation once it reached 4,659m-down. However at this depth, the scientists did find the pressure was high enough to see the supercritical steam they were expecting.

Scientists have long known that Iceland sits atop a lot of geothermal energy—it sits atop what’s known as a geologic “hotspot”—and now they’re keen to find a way to convert all of that heat into some sort of usable energy above ground. It’s a big deal, then, that this project has gotten as far as it has. This is a step towards unlocking yet another source of power, and suggests that our energy future might not be as dismal as environmentalists fear.

We should note that figuring out how to reliably “bottle” this supercritical steam won’t be any sort of energy panacea. Just as is the case with virtually every energy source, geothermal requires the right local conditions for these projects to start providing power to local communities. Still, thinking of this Iceland borehole as a proof of concept, there’s plenty to be excited about here.

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  • Fat_Man

    No real breakthrough here. Iceland, which sits on top of the Mid-Atlantic Ridge fracture zone, uses geothermal sources to provide 90% of their domestic space heat and 25% of their electricity. Most of the rest is hydro-electrcity.

    They can and do export their bounty by smelting aluminum and by running server farms.

    Iceland is lucky to have this resource available. Where I live a 4659m (2.9 mi.) hole would put you in a bed of sedimentary rock, most likely shale. But we are not luckless. We are natural gas producers. That works too.

    • Andrew Allison

      Agreed, but we too have geothermal resources available, albeit on and west of the Continental Divide, and the frackers are making amazing advances in drilling technology. Cross-over is not beyond the bounds of possibility.

      • Fat_Man

        Californians hate the idea of sticking sharp things into the body of Gaia, our mother.

        • Andrew Allison

          There’s a lot of geothermal activity between the Rockies and the borders of the Socialist Republic of California which, I rather suspect, is about to receive a sharp reality check. What do you suppose the reaction of the current administration will be when CA asks for help in dealing with its $1 trillion unfunded pension liability? Federal funding for the HSR boondoggle? Etc, etc? What Governor Moonbeam and the CA legislature fail to understand is that the recent election shows that they are out of synch with the rest of the country as a whole.

  • Andrew Allison

    And we care about the energy security of Iceland because . . .? At least it’s a break from the endless “hail shale” posts (this is a recording: oil is, and will remain, half the price it was a couple of years ago, etc., etc.).

  • ljgude

    “Server farms.” It reminds me of that huge NSA server farm in Utah. You know the one where they record everything I say at TAI, all my emails and any day now my conversations with Our Lady. Think of the money they could save, if there is geothermal available nearby.

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