New Scientist reports: [edited]
Drilling into hot rocks to tap geothermal energy is one thing. Drilling deep enough to tap the energy from magma oozing into volcanoes is quite another, offering a massive increase in the potential to exploit Earth’s inner heat.
That is the task of a rig now drilling 5 kilometres into the rugged landscape of old lava flows in Reykjanes, at the south-west corner of Iceland. Drilling began on 12 August. By the end of the year, the Iceland Deep Drilling Project (IDDP) hopes to have created the hottest hole in the world, hitting temperatures anywhere between 400 and 1000 °C.
At that depth, pressures are more than 200 times atmospheric levels. The consortium of energy companies and researchers behind the project expects the water to be in the form of “supercritical steam”, which is neither liquid nor gas and holds much more heat energy than either.
A well that can successfully tap into such steam could have an energy capacity of 50 megawatts, compared to the 5 of a typical geothermal well, says Albertsson. This would mean some 50,000 homes could be powered, versus 5,000 from a single well.