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April 11, 2017

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Study on creating energy from magma

SCIENTISTS will study the possibility of producing geothermal energy from magma for the first time, in a US$100 million project in Iceland, which if successful could produce up to 10 times more energy than from a conventional well.

The project is being coordinated by Iceland’s Geothermal Research Group (GEORG) and the British Geological Survey, with the participation of 38 institutes and companies from 11 countries including the United States, Canada and Russia.

Producing geothermal energy from magma would enable Iceland to export more energy and could also revive a plan to build a power cable from Iceland to Britain to provide power to British homes, in what would be the world’s longest power interconnector.

Iceland, a volcanic island that produces all its electricity from geothermal energy and hydropower, agreed with Britain last year to study building the 1,000-kilometer-long IceLink cable, which could power 1.6 million British homes.

Those plans were delayed due to Britain’s vote to leave the European Union and concern in Iceland that exports would increase power prices at home and cut the island’s appeal to energy-intensive industries such as data centers.

The possibility of increasing geothermal energy supply in Iceland “would most certainly be a boost to the proposed plan as there were worries on the effect on local prices with increased exports,” said Wayne Bryan, an analyst at the British Alfa Energy consultancy.

Britain’s National Grid would continue to look into the Icelandic interconnector link, a spokeswoman said.

The magma project, called Krafla Magma Testbed, will involve drilling a hole 2.1km deep directly into a magma chamber below the Krafla volcano in north Iceland.

The first phase of the project is planned to start by 2020 and will cost US$30 million, the British Geological Survey said in a statement about the study, which also aims to explore the mechanism of eruptions to protect communities from volcanic disasters. It said it was confident of securing the financing as a number of countries and companies had expressed interest in contributing, but did not give details.

“A magma geothermal well can produce five to 10 times more energy compared to a conventional well,” said Sigor­dur Markusson, a project manager for Icelandic utility Landsvirkjun, which will develop the site.


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