World Geothermal Congress 2020+1
March - October, 2021

Bringing Together Volcano Science and Geothermal Industry: the KMT – Krafla Magma Testbed breaking-through Perspective

Paolo PAPALE, John EICHELBERGER, Hjalti Pall INGOLFSSON, Yan LAVALLEE, John LUDDEN, Sigurdur MARKUSSON, Freysteinn SIGMUNDSSON, and The KMT Consortium

[INGV, Italy]

The ultimate source of geothermal energy is magma. This obvious consideration should be enough to establish close relationships between research in geothermal energy systems, and that connected with magmatic and volcanic systems, namely, volcanology. As a matter of fact, the two were closely linked decades ago, but then they diverged and continued to develop mostly as separate disciplines, each one having its own aims, projects, conferences, journals, and communities. Experts in geothermal system circulation, geothermal fluid flow dynamics and thermodynamics, and geothermal/volcanic fluid geochemistry, populate both communities, however, they rarely interact, and their advance in interpretation and modeling is poorly transferred to each other. That happens at a time when the demand for clean, renewable energy sources is increasingly high, and in a panorama whereby other renewable energy sources such as solar and wind have been able to expand and respond much more effectively than geothermal energy. It is a fact that the heat flux from the Earth interior can provide enormously more energy than to-date global production levels; in fact, geothermal energy is still exploiting just the skin of an immense reservoir extending to temperatures one order of magnitude higher than those of typical productive geothermal fluids, and existing at similarly shallow depths. Those reservoirs are represented by magma itself, and by the supercritical fluids circulating in its proximity. While the search for supercritical fluids has seen increased interest during last years, recent unexpected encounters of geothermal well drills with shallow magma are opening completely new perspectives, suggesting the feasibility of close-to-magma volcano monitoring and energy exploitation systems. The scientific, technological, and logistic challenges that such a breaking-through development requires are the subject of KMT: Krafla Magma Testbed, a project which gathers scientists and industries from all over the world in an international effort towards the realization of the first magma observatory ever. That will be represented by a permanent infrastructure open into rhyolitic magma at about 2 km depth inside the Krafla caldera, Iceland, and dedicated to research and experimentation on volcano monitoring and geothermal energy production systems in the third millennium, as well as on new technologies for extreme condition environments.

        Topic: Advanced Technology (Magma, Geopressure, etc.) Paper Number: 37028

         Session 43C: Advanced Technology 2 [Tuesday 6th July 2021, 12:00 pm] (UTC-8)
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