Reykjavík Energy along with the University of Iceland and other international scientific institutions have received two EU grants for climate projects to the combined amount of EUR 12.2 million. The grants will fund further development of methods fixing CO2 as a mineral in basaltic rock, now with special emphasis on the sea-bed.
Dr. Edda Sif Pind Aradóttir, the projects’ manager at Reykjavík Energy, says the grants, that will benefit a score of collaborators, are a valuable recognition of the projects’ merit and their contribution in the fight against climate change. Already, nine doctoral students have done their theses on fixing CO2 in rock.
Gas into rock:
Since year 2007, scientists have collaborated with Reykjavík Energy’s experts, technicians, and tradespeople on developing the idea and implementation of fixating CO2 into basaltic rock around The Hellisheidi Geothermal Power Plant. The power station co-generates electricity and hot water from geothermal steam which contains sporadic amounts geothermal gases. The same method as has been developed with CO2 is now also employed to sequester H2S, another geothermal gas. Already, 60% of the gases are now fixed as minerals in the bedrock and ON Power, Reykjavík Energy’s subsidiary that operates the power plant, aims at making the operation traceless in terms of these gases.
Looking to the oceans:
Because the methods employed to fix the geothermal gases in the bedrock crave both water and basaltic rock, scientists now have focused on the ocean floor. There, extensive field of basalt can be found and, naturally, lots of water.
Led by Iceland‘s National Energy Authority, the Geothermal research project called Geothermica is worth 30 mill EUR aims to support and accelerate development of geothermal utilization within the participating European countries.
The National Energy Authority of Iceland (NEA) have newly introduced a geothermal research project, which was discussed on a local news media in Iceland. NEA will serve as head of the project in a big cooperative geothermal research project with sixteen administrative and research centers in thirteen European countries. The project called Geothermia will aim to support and accelerate development of geothermal utilization within the participating countries. To achieve the goals the participants have contributed over EUR 30 million ($33 million) into a fund that will be used to support the innovation and development of geothermal energy.
10 EU countries participating in the partnership; Germany, France, Italy, Spain, Portugal, Holland, Belgium, Denmark, Romania and Slovenia, as well as Iceland, Switzerland and Turkey related to the project through an agreement with the EU, including the EEA Agreement. They are to share research funds from the participating countries on the one hand and the EU on the other hand for research and innovation in the field of geothermal energy, and to promote business networks and the geothermal sector in Europe. Then the plan is to establish strategic alliances among those who provide funding for geothermal research and innovation.
Hjalti Páll Ingólfsson, Manager of the GEORG research cluster in Iceland and Program manager for Geothermic, values this project to be also useful in Iceland. It provides opportunities for projects in new locations, beyond where Icelandic companies and individuals have worked in recent years.
“This also opens the opportunity to utilize our knowledge of district heating and the possibility of using geothermal energy as a source of heat, not only for power generation. This is becoming a major revival in Europe of the use of renewable energy, which has not been so far despite intense moment, “he says.
When asked who could take advantage of this fund, he says it may be experts in energy that might be on various projects, regardless of what they are denominated. “Those who can definitely come in here are independent experts and consultants, engineering firms, energy companies and this can certainly be an opportunity for the row of projects,” he says.
Behind projects like this lies the policy of European countries to substantially increase the share of renewable energy both for the public and for use in industry. Today, geothermal energy is used as an energy source only in a few industries and a few designated areas. At the same time it is estimated that about a quarter of European countries can take advantage of geothermal energy. The European Union wants to fuel 80% of all heating from renewable energy by 2050, including from geothermal energy which is still much undeveloped in most parts of the world. The participants in the research project therefore believe that the opportunities of further utilisation of geothermal energy is essentially limitless.
Asked if this project connects to the ongoing debate on climate change, he says that the project confirms the EU’s interest in geothermal energy is directly and indirectly connected to the debate. The interest in renewable energy is therefore incredibly important.
Icelands Deep Drilling Project (IDDP), was founded in 2000 by a consortium of three Icelandic energy companies, who are now drilling deep into the heart of a volcano in the south-west of Iceland. Iceland, sitting on the boundary between two major tectonic plates, is one of the most volcanically active places in the world. The project is located on the Reykjanes peninsula, where a volcano last erupted 700 years ago.
In a discussion with the BBC on 14th of December 2016, researchers reported that in the next couple of weeks they should reach a depth of 5km, where temperatures are expected to exceed 500C (932F). That is the deepest level of drilling so far in the world.
Asgeir Margeirsson, CEO of the Iceland Deep Drilling Project (IDDP) in his interview with the BBC hopes that this will open new doors for the geothermal industry globally to step into an era of more production.
“That’s the aim – that’s the hope. We have never been this deep before, we have never been into rock this hot before, but we are optimistic.” Said Asgeir Margeirsson.
Harnessing this energy through geothermal technology is already well established in Iceland. In this area at Reykjanes, they typically drill to 2km or 3km depth to harness the steam, to run power plants and produce clean, renewable electricity as explained by Asgeir Margeirsson. They want to see if the resources go deeper than that.
The drilling has now reached nearly 4,500m, and the team expected it to hit its target depth of 5km by the end of the year 2016.
When the drill gets to 5km, the team expects to find molten rock mixed with water. But with the extreme heat and immense pressure found at this depth, the water becomes what is known as “supercritical steam”.
It is neither a liquid nor a gas, but it holds far more energy than either. It is this “supercritical” steam that the team wants to bring back up to the surface to convert into electricity.They believe its special properties mean it could produce up to 10 times as much energy as the steam from conventional geothermal wells. They don’t expect to drill into magma, but are drilling into hot rock which is around 400 to 500C.”
Mr Margeirsson said that if this works, in the future they would need to drill fewer wells to produce the same amount of energy, meaning they would touch less surface, which means less environmental impact and hopefully lower costs.
“But that is if this works. This is full-scale research and development – we don’t know what the outcome will be.” And there is a good reason to be cautious. With volcanoes, expect the unexpected.
Prof Freysteinn Sigmundsson, a volcanologist at the University of Iceland, reports that even though Iceland has more than 300 volcanoes, there is still much to learn about them. At the same time he states that this drilling project, however, would give geologists a unique vantage point to see the interior of a volcano. He emphazises the importance of this project and the possible fundamental discoveries about how volcanoes work, learn about their properties and conditions.
The IDDP team says it is currently “drilling blind”, which means no rocky debris is coming back up to the surface. Instead, it is somehow being absorbed into the surrounding rocks. Without being able to examine the rock, it means the geologists really are heading into the unknown. However, with only a few hundred metres to go, they are optimistic that the world’s hottest borehole is now within their sights.
First regional IAG (Industry Advisory group) meeting was held in Iceland last week in Reykjavík. The formation of the group is to provide input and advice on the implementation of the GREBE project in Iceland. The Group shall meet once a year in 2016, 2017 and 2018 and ICI in in charge of organizing the meetings.
On the meeting GREBE project was introduced and members circulated about the project relevance in Iceland and how it could affect their business. Members discussed opportunities in renewable energy and technology, and knowledge transfer between GREBE partners. Next meeting will be held in 2017.
Iceland Regional industry advisory group.
Kristján Leósson from Innovation Center Iceland (www.nmi.is)