Scientists’ Drill Hits Magma: Only Third Time on Record

By | July 2, 2009

Scientists Drill Hits Magma Only Third Time on Record

Scientists drilling a borehole deep into Iceland’s rocky crust to explore new methods of using geothermal energy hit a major roadblock on Thursday: Their drill ran into molten rock at a depth of 6,900 feet.“This is only the third time that magma has ever flowed into a geothermal drill hole, as far as we know,†said Peter Schiffman, a geology professor at UC Davis and member of the international team conducting the study. “A research project in Hawaii hit magma in 2005, and in 1977 magma erupted out the top of a producing geothermal well not far from our site in Krafla, Iceland.â€In Hawaii, drilling stopped. And Schiffman is doubtful that this project, known as the Iceland Deep Drilling Project, or IDDP, can continue. But if the magma body is narrow — as he and the research team expect it is — it may be possible to bore through it or around it, he said. “We’ve been able to keep circulation of cold water through the drill string, so our equipment is still functional.â€The team had originally planned to drill to 11,500 feet, or almost 2.2 miles into the earth.The main purpose of IDDP — an international research effort supported by the National Science Foundation, the International Continental Drilling Program, Alcoa Inc., and Icelandic power companies — is to investigate the economic feasibility of extracting energy from hydrothermal systems that are under extremely high temperatures and pressures.Drilling began at the site near Krafla in northeast Iceland in December 2008. After reaching a depth of 2,600 feet, the project was put on hold for two months before resuming in early March.

via UC Davis News

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