The Icelandic Deep Drilling Project (IDDP), a collaboration of HS Energy, National Power Company (NPC), Reykjavik Energy and National Energy Authority of Iceland, has created the world's first magma-based geothermal energy system.
The system was created after drilling 2,100m through the earth's crust and it is only the second instance that a drilling operation has broken through to magma with the first one in 2007 being in Hawaii.
The IDDP-1 borehole was the first in a series of wells being drilled by the IDDP in Iceland to explore high-temperature geothermal resources.
The IDDP, alongside the hole-owner NPC, investigated the hole further and bore part of the substantial capital cost involved.
According to University of California, Riverside professor emeritus of geology Wilfred Elders, the hole was lined with a steel casing perforated in the bottom section closest to the magma. It was allowed to heat slowly and eventually to flow superheated steam for the next two years until July 2012.
Elders said that despite difficulties, the project has passed several key milestones including allowing the hole to blow superheated, high-pressure steam for months at temperatures exceeding 450°C, which created a world record for geothermal heat.
In addition to this, the project successfully proved steam from the well could be fed directly into the Krafla power plant, located in north-east Iceland, near a volcanic crater.
Elders said: "Although the IDDP-1 hole had to be shut in, the aim now is to repair the well or to drill a new similar hole.
"The experiment at Krafla suffered various setbacks that tried personnel and equipment throughout. However, the process itself was very instructive, and, apart from scientific articles published in Geothermics, comprehensive reports on practical lessons learned are nearing completion."
NPC was working to connect to the magma-powered steam pipe prior to the closure of the hole owing to a valve failure, but, IDDP plans to reopen IDDP-1 and drill a second borehole (IDDP-2) in Reykjanes, Iceland, in 2014-2015.
Image: Flow test of the IDDP-1 well at Krafla. Note the transparent superheated steam at the top of the rock muffler. Photo: courtesy of Kristján Einarsson.