Iceland Digs World's Deepest Well to Harness Geothermal Energy on Volcano Field

Geothermal energy taps into the heat naturally created by the Earth to generate electricity. The idea is simple: there is a large temperature gradient between the Earth’s surface and the deeper regions of the planet’s crust. There are a few ways to transform this heat into electricity, but the most common method involves steam. As water seeps into the crust, it’s turned into steam, which is captured by geothermal plants to spin turbines that generate electricity.

The United States is a leader in installed geothermal capacity, and geothermal plants in eight states produce more than 3,300 megawatts. However, one country puts us to shame, and that’s Iceland.

For years, Iceland has used geothermal energy as their primary energy source. Now, the country has undertaken a large green energy project that is the first of its kind.

In April, engineers there drilled the world’s deepest geothermal well. Because this well is located on a volcano, there is incredible potential for geothermal energy. In fact, the temperatures at the bottom of this well are so extreme that water exists in a supercritical state, which means it acts like both a gas and a liquid. This also means the well has nearly limitless potential as a geothermal energy source.

The well, which was dug at the HS Orka geothermal field in Iceland, reaches a depth of 2.7 miles underground. The project was part of the Deep Enhanced Geothermal System for Sustainable Energy Businesses (DEEPEGS) project, and the goal is to create a more powerful source of clean energy. While this project can have numerous benefits, there are plenty of risks with such a deep well, including magma contaminating the water and volcanic rocks that can cause the drill to get stuck.

“We just have to see…whether we are able to tame this monster,” said Hjalti Pall Ingolfsson, a member of Iceland’s Geothermal Research Group.

The work by the DEEPEGS team was helped in part by IMAGE, which is a European Union funded project with the goal of improving methods to assess and drill into geothermal areas. In any geothermal project, special geothermal cameras are required to assess the potential of new wells. As more countries make green energy a priority, the field of geothermal imaging is evolving fast.

“Often the earth is compared to the human body,” explained Dr Jan-Diederik van Wees, from the Netherlands Organisation for Applied Scientific Research (TNO) and one of the lead scientists on the IMAGE project, to Horizon Magazine. “It’s very hard to simply expose it, you need to rely on a few holes you make from the outside.”

However, it is important to note that these geothermal sites, especially one this deep, require special high temperature geothermal cameras for downhole well inspection. Geothermal imaging is crucial as a way to analyze what exactly is happening down in the Earth’s crust.

Using a geothermal camera for wells can be an exceptionally helpful in harnessing this powerful, green energy source.

If you have any additional questions about geothermal imaging, please contact our professionals today.