Icelandic Deep Drilling Project: Work to start on first borehole in Krafla

11. September 2007

Iceland’s leading deep drilling firms recently signed a new agreement. The contract concerns drilling the first borehole on the Krafla site. It will be 4-5 km deep, and work will be carried out in 2008. Two further boreholes will be drilled, one in the Hengill area and another in Reykjanes. The signatories were Hitaveita Sudurnesja hf., Landsvirkjun, the National Energy Authority of Iceland, Orkuveita Reykjavíkur and Alcoa Inc. Alcoa is a new addition to the group investing in the research aspect of deep drilling projects.
The three energy companies, Landsvirkjun, Hitaveita Sudurnesja hf. and Orkuveita Reykjavíkur, will each drill to a depth of around 3.5 km, at an estimated cost of ISK 700-1,000m for each borehole. The three companies, along with the Energy Authority and Alcoa, will then join forces to consider scientific aspects of their work as part of the Iceland Deep Drilling Project (IDDP). This research will include extending the Krafla borehole to a depth of 4.5 km, taking core samples of rock, testing borehole fluids, pressure tests, and experimental energy production as the opportunity arises. The expected cost of the extension to the Krafla borehole alone is ISK 1,000m in addition to the sums mentioned above. The total cost of the work will be ISK 3,500m for deep drilling and related research during the next 3-4 years. This is in addition to ISK 150m already invested in preparations, which began in 2000.

Minister of Industry Össur Skarphédinsson attended the presentation, along with the
CEOs of Landsvirkjun, Hitaveita Sudurnesja hf. and Orkuveita Reykjavíkur.

The ICDP (International Continental Scientific Drilling Program) and the NSF (National Science Foundation), an American fund, will contribute ISK 300m for extraction of cores for scientific study in partnership with the IDDP. A large number of geologists and geothermal heat specialists, from Iceland and abroad, will take part in the research. Most of the foreign scientists will arrange their own research finances. The EU has also contributed a large grant for the development and production of borehole measuring equipment that will be used in deep holes. RANNÍS has also been involved in the scientific research.
It is clear that all these companies, institutions and science funds are working very purposefully on deep drilling, and the level of expectation is high. However, the project carries no guarantees, and there are many risks as new avenues are explored in many fields and a number of technical problems remain unsolved. It is vital that first steps are very carefully considered, and natural that the first deep boreholes cost far more than future commercial drillings. A 5 km borehole is a much more complex operation than drilling normal high-temperature shafts at depths of 2-2.5 km. Steel linings have to be installed down to 3.5 km – a procedure that has never been carried out before in Iceland. The capping equipment must also be much stronger than usual and withstand hot gases at 400-600°C and pressures up to 250 bar. The drilling will have very little environmental impact as installations already exist on the sites. Future deep drilling will most likely take place in areas already developed.
Work is now in progress regarding sending formal notification to the Icelandic National Planning Agency of the Krafla borehole, as required by environmental impact legislation, and all necessary legal steps will be taken within the next few weeks. Contract negotiations with Jardborarnir hf. concerning drilling the borehole are drawing to a close. They will use their largest, most powerful drill, which arrived in Iceland last July. Orders have been placed for some of the construction materials, but there are often long delivery times. Drilling is expected to begin at the end of next summer, and research may well continue until 2015.
The deep drilling project is an attempt to open a new chapter in the exploitation of geothermal areas. The boreholes are expected to be 5-10 times more productive than current drillings, each having the potential to provide 40-50 MW of electrical power. Results on this scale could increase the viability of geothermal areas all over the world. However, expectations are being held in check until the project begins to give results, which will be many years in the future.

Related website: IDDP web >>

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