While the Cumbre Vieja volcano continues its eruption in the Canaries, 11 countries want to join forces to create the first “world underground magma observatory” in Iceland.
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The idea is to explore the bowels of the Earth, from an Icelandic volcano. This is the Krafla, located in the northeast of the island and which is known for its magnificent crater filled with turquoise water. But it will not be useful to go to the center of the Earth to install this observatory, it will “suffice” to dig a borehole two kilometers deep: there, the scientists will come across a pocket of molten lava at more than 900 meters. ° C. This magma chamber, one of the closest to the earth’s surface in the world, was discovered by chance 12 years ago when workers working on the expansion of a geothermal plant pierced this pocket of lava of 500 million cubic meters. Fortunately, the accident did not claim any victims.
The idea is to lower measuring instruments into a sort of sarcophagus resistant to these very high temperatures to study the behavior of the magma. It is about better understanding volcanic eruptions and trying to better anticipate them, explains an Italian volcanologist quoted by Agence France Presse. In addition, the engineers also hope to use this drilling, to produce energy.
The heat of the molten magma must be recovered on the surface. During the 2009 accident, the vapor rising to the surface from the magma reached 450 ° C: this is the highest volcanic vapor temperature ever recorded. Using this potential, engineers hope to produce five to ten times more energy than with a conventional geothermal well. This should allow heating up to 90,000 homes.
38 research institutes from 12 countries are involved in the project, including France, Germany, the United States, Canada, Denmark. The project has a budget of 90 million euros. The technical challenge is immense and the first drilling of the Krafla Magma Testbed should start in 2024.