Iceland eyes geothermal energy from magma

Iceland's Krafla geothermal power station resulted from an incident of accidental drilling into subsurface magma of a caldera several years ago. Photo: Wikimedia.org.

Iceland’s Krafla geothermal power station resulted from an incident of accidental drilling into subsurface magma of a caldera several years ago. Photo: Wikimedia.org.

According to an Aug. 28th report on the WorldBulletin.net website, Iceland may become the first country to generate electricity from volcanic magma.

If plans to proceed next year are successful, up to three percent of the nation’s energy requirements could be generated from this procedure, according to Gudmundur Omar Fridleifsson, identified by World Bulletin as the chief geologist of the Iceland Deep Drilling Project (IDDP). The IDDP consists of a partnership between three energy companies — National Power Company, HS Energy Ltd., and Reykjavik Energy — plus the government’s National Energy Authority of Iceland.

“Iceland created the first magma-based geothermal energy system after accidentally drilling approximately two kilometers into a chamber of molten lava in a caldera called Krafla in the north of the island five years ago” notes the article.

With this incident, scientists from IDDP decided to use the magma to generate 36 megawatts of electricity in 2012. However, the team’s plans were put on hold when a valve failed during the process and the well had to be closed down.

Fridleifsson related that “The power company then considered either reconditioning the well or drilling a new well to the magma chamber for steam production.” He noted that “The IDDP program is now ready to drill the next well, IDDP-2, but this time not in Krafla, in the Reykjanes geothermal field in south west Iceland, which has seawater salinity and in many respects resembles black smoker systems on the ocean floor.” The IDDP-2 project will incorporate some modifications and improvements in the well design and flow line structure.

Described as “A revolution for the energy world”, the process involves pumping water down during drilling. This “hydrofractures the hot rock next to the magma body…” reports the article. Then the process is reversed, to attract the fluid into the well.

It creates a Geothermal System forming an EGS-Magma system. IDDP claims that by this drilling, they “unintentionally” created the world’s first Magma-EGS system.


Magma could be source for geothermal energy in Iceland and other countries. Photo via Inhabit.com.

Magma could be source for geothermal energy in Iceland and other countries. Photo via Inhabit.com.


Citing data from the International Energy Agency, World Bulletin emphasizes that “This new method of generating electricity could be important for Iceland, where geothermal energy and hydroelectricity make up almost 95 percent of the energy production and 85 percent of homes are heated by geothermal ….”

The potential of producing geothermal energy from magma is exciting many power industry professionals worldwide. Mustafa Kumral, an associate professor of geological engineering at Istanbul Technical University, told World Bulletin that “New Zealand and Iceland are experienced countries with geothermal works because of their geological locations and geothermal sources.” He noted that, for these countries, geothermal power and thermal processes “are very common due to volcanism. Besides, they have more opportunities compared to other countries” he added.

Turkey, with around approximately 14 inactive volcanoes, is also considering magma as a geothermal power source.

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