A geothermal borehole project in Iceland a few years ago accidentally struck magma – the molten rock that flows out of volcanoes – and it spewed superheated steam for two years.
This superheated steam, scientists hope, can be harnessed to produce electricity, said a report published in The Conversation.
The Icelandic Deep Drilling Project, IDDP, has been drilling shafts up to 5 km deep in an attempt to harness the heat in the volcanic bedrock far below the surface of Iceland.
In 2009 their borehole at Krafla, northeast Iceland, reached only 2,100m deep before unexpectedly striking a pocket of magma intruding into the earth’s upper crust from below, at searing temperatures of 900-1,000 degrees Celsius.
“Drilling into magma is a very rare occurrence and this is only the second known instance anywhere in the world,“ Wilfred Elders, professor emeritus of geology at University of California, Riverside, was quoted as saying.
“This could lead to a revolution in the energy efficiency of high-temperature geothermal projects in the future,” Elders said.
The magma-heated steam has been measured to be capable of generating 36 MW of electrical power, said the study published in the journal Geothermics.