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Iceland To Drill Hole Into Volcano 275

G3ckoG33k writes "BBC reports that Iceland will drill a hole into a volcano so it can tap heat from it, which eventually is hoped to produce commercially available energy. From the article: "Twenty years ago, geologist Gudmundur Omar Friedleifsson had a surprise when he lowered a thermometer down a borehole. 'We melted the thermometer,' he recalls. 'It was set for 380C; but it just melted.'". Excuse me, Gudmundur, but how could that ever have been a 'surprise'..."
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Iceland To Drill Hole Into Volcano

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  • Re:Doctor Who (Score:5, Informative)

    by Trestran ( 715384 ) on Monday March 27, 2006 @09:25AM (#15002096)
    And for those of you wondering exactly what the hell he is talking about: Inferno [gallifreyone.com], a Doctor Who story, in the first season of the third Doctor. It's pretty decent Who story, where a similar experiment ends up blowing up the world (they drill completely through to the crust though). Which the Doctor witnesses in a parralel universe, so he can warn his own universe of the dangers of the experiment. Throw some weird green hairy zombies in, to make sure you do not forget it is Doctor Who. :P

    After watching Doctor Who for the first time with the new series last year, I've actually started going through all the old Doctor Who stories I never saw in chronological order, and boy is there a lot of (26 seasons, to be precise). And I just happened to have watch Inferno yesterday, so it is fresh on my mind, and was actually the first thing I thought of when I saw this newsbit also. :)
  • Re:Warn Iceland! (Score:1, Informative)

    by Anonymous Coward on Monday March 27, 2006 @09:46AM (#15002205)
    Actually geothermal enery has been used commercially for decades in Italy:
    just search for "soffioni boraciferi" and larderello.
    They never had any sort of trouble except for the smell in the air (due to the sulfur)
    but this was there anyway;)
  • by Anonymous Coward on Monday March 27, 2006 @09:52AM (#15002244)
    Okay. Everybody's joking about it, but here's the solution to the puzzle of the "surprising" heat: that's 380+ Celcius *WATER*, not lava. The area being studied is on the sea floor or kilometres beneath the land surface, and the water is under great pressure. As a result, it gets much hotter than surface water, without boiling. Sometimes the "water" in the sea floor close to these volcanic areas is a supercritical fluid -- beyond the temperature-pressure conditions for distinct gaseous and liquid phases.

    Supercritical water is pretty exotic stuff in power systems. There are some advanced fossil-fuel power stations that use it, and supercritical nuclear power systems are being developed. They offer higher thermal efficiencies. In Iceland, they might be able to get the same thing going, but with renewable geothermal sources, which would be great, but first they have to tame some pretty extreme conditions in the boreholes.
  • RTFA (Score:5, Informative)

    by Hakubi_Washu ( 594267 ) <robert.kostenNO@SPAMgmail.com> on Monday March 27, 2006 @10:10AM (#15002354)
    The summary is bullshit, even by /. standards. They were drilling for conventional geothermal energy, that is water heated by a lava flow nearby (extremely common in Iceland). Given the high pressure they were expecting high temperatures (the quoted 380) and still liquid water (due to the pressure). What was surprising is the fact that the water was probably more than 500 and actually melted the thermometer. Given this discovery (aka The water in this depth is much hotter than previously calculated) it makes perfect sense to a) explore the reasons for the higher temperature and b) use that for a more efficient power plant. There's no volcanoes involved at all.
  • by Dan Ost ( 415913 ) on Monday March 27, 2006 @10:21AM (#15002419)
    Humidity raises the specific heat of the air, effectively making it a better heat conductor. 30 degrees with 60% humidity is far more dangerous than 0 degrees with 20% humidity. Combine high humidity with wind chill and things get downright lethal very quickly.

    I grew up in North Dakota and have fond memories of scraping ice off my windshield while wearing boxers at below zero (with no wind or humidity). I would never consider doing that here in Tennessee 'cuz 29 degrees with 60% humidity is COLD!
  • Re:Yellowstone park (Score:4, Informative)

    by Bob3141592 ( 225638 ) on Monday March 27, 2006 @10:41AM (#15002585) Homepage
    Hopefully, if this works, we will start more taps in wyoming/montana around Yellowstone park. I realize that some will worry that we would tap too much heat out, but if we work from the outside, it is doubtful that we could change Old Faithful. It is time that we take advantage of none destuctive alternatives such as this (as well as nukes).

    It is a good idea, and of less concern than you think. Geothermal energy should be exploited more, but it's uncommon to find a good natural source with a configuration that makes it economically feasible to exploit.

    However, your comment about geysers is incorrect. Geysers form under very peculiar circumstances, needing long vertical shafts with interveening chambers of a certain geometry. Under more common conditions you only get hot springs or boiling mud pots. Geysers are spectacular and rare for a reason. Also, Old Faithful hasn't been since an earthquake in 1998. Faithful, that is. It used to go off like regular clockwork, but now it's much more sporatic. In general, geysers often simply stop erupting, most commonly because mineral deposits change their geometry or choke off their vents. Earthquakes, ubiquitous in regions with geysers, are another major factor. Fascinating objects, really, and worth a closer look.
  • by Nafets ( 776888 ) on Monday March 27, 2006 @10:58AM (#15002724)
    You seem to assume that the rock down there is dry. The fact of the matter is that the rock has lots and lots of fractures and tiny tunnels through which water flows. The water, or steam, flows to the surface and there the energy is extracted from it. Like the article says they have already gone down to 3,082m and are now conducting flow tests, which means they are seeing how much water is coming up the hole. Of course there is the possibility that the waterflow is below a certain threshold which would render the hole economically unviable, but there is certainly no magma being moved or circulated anywhere either. More information about IDDP : http://jardhitafelag.is.nyud.net:8080/papers/PDF_S ession_06/S06Paper122.pdf [nyud.net]
  • by sacherjj ( 7595 ) on Monday March 27, 2006 @11:27AM (#15002968) Homepage
    At depth, the groundwater is way over 100C, but the pressure keeps it liquid. As Dr Friedleifsson puts it: "On the surface, you boil your egg at 100 degrees; but if you wanted to boil your egg at a depth of 2,500m, it would take 350."

    Sorry, but I HATE stupid analogies that only help make stupid people reading them, dumber. It would take 350C for the water to boil, but non-boiling 100C water will "boil" and egg just fine. It is a good thing that 340C water isn't hot enough to burn you down there, because it isn't "boiling". Sheesh....

    Lets see, pressure of water to boil at 350C is around 1100 psi (guess from extending this chart [engineeringtoolbox.com]). So the question is, can an egg in a shell withstand 1100 psi to even be boiled?
  • Re:High Temp Drills (Score:3, Informative)

    by x2A ( 858210 ) on Monday March 27, 2006 @12:51PM (#15003693)
    "but I'm not impressed that they were suprised by the thermometer melting"

    It was in liquid water at the time, which changes things somewhat. Also, whilst drilling into the "volcano", they're only drilling into rock, not into the magma, so the danger isn't what you imagine.

  • by the argonaut ( 676260 ) on Monday March 27, 2006 @01:18PM (#15003881) Homepage Journal
    Mostly BS. The reasons no new hydro plants have been built:

    (1) Most of the good damn (misspelling intentional) sites have already been taken.

    (2) The environmental costs. Sorry to have to break this to ya, but this is a huge part of the equation. In the last decade there have been a not insignificant number of damns, mostly smaller ones, that have been removed for environmental reasons.

    (3) The economics of damns simply do not work. Especially as the size of the damn increases, no private entity can build and operate a significant damn at a profit. They're money losing ventures.
  • by JDevers ( 83155 ) on Monday March 27, 2006 @02:08PM (#15004270)
    Not to be pedantic (because you are basically right), but if you are scraping ice off of a windshield then the dew point would have been pretty close to the ambient temp at some point (meaning the relative humidity was high). In a 20% RH environment, there will not be any condensation unless the surface where the ice forms is MUCH cooler than ambient.

    So if you said, when I lived in ND and went out to get the mail in my boxers and didn't get cold because of 15% RH versus freezing my sack off in pants doing the same in Tennessee in 80-100% RH (early morning likely except in really dry times) even though it was far colder in ND, then you would be right. But then you have to figure that it is generally far windier in ND than TN, except for some of the mountainous areas, but that is an entirely different discussion.

    Ironically, most people realize this, but only in the form of "hot air" without thinking about the ramifications of humidity at cold temps. Most people know that sticking your hand into a 350F oven doesn't really hurt for quite some time (assuming you don't touch something inside...), but touching a 212F column of steam will hurt quite quickly. Or that 95F in Orlando feels a hell of a lot hotter than 110F in Phoenix.
  • Re:Warn Iceland! (Score:2, Informative)

    by zrk ( 64468 ) <{spam-from-slashdot} {at} {ackthud.net}> on Monday March 27, 2006 @02:24PM (#15004393) Homepage
    I don't think that's the one. There was a film from 1965 called Crack in the World [imdb.com]. It started by them drilling down by a volcano and dropping in the nuke. The crack eventually worked its way around the Earth, which then ejected the portion that cracked into space, done as well as a 1960's movie could do, which is to say Not. The Core was the one with Hilary Swank and Aaron Eckhart that was almost as bad, but it did have more of a camp value.
  • Re:Warn Iceland! (Score:2, Informative)

    by Code Herder ( 937988 ) on Monday March 27, 2006 @02:38PM (#15004508)
    No, you definitly are not an expert.
  • by tacokill ( 531275 ) on Monday March 27, 2006 @06:24PM (#15006566)
    Yep. Parent is dead on. Just for reference:

    @ atmospheric pressure (14.7psig), water boils at 212F
    @ 700psig, water boils at 503F
    @ 3000psig, water boils at 695F
    and above, 3208psig, you can add as much heat as you want and water won't boil. It's called the critical pressure.

    And its the very reason there are so many "steam" accidents at power plants. You hear liquid going through the lines but you don't realize that liquid is under pressure. And once you release the pressure, the liquid instantly flashes and boils off --- creating a HUGE increase in volume. And a very dangerous environment.

    Why yes, IAARVS (I am a relief valve salesman)
  • by Anonymous Coward on Monday March 27, 2006 @07:32PM (#15007098)
    Are you on crack (maybe I am, who knows)? I live in the county with the lowest cost of power IN THE COUNTRY. I work acrosst he river in the county with the second lowest cost of power IN THE COUNTRY. Both of the public utility districts own and operate dams on the Columbia River. They are also both doing quite well financially. From what I see with my own eyes, dams are very economically viable.

Someone is unenthusiastic about your work.