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Cooling down a supervolcano and generate geothermal power – a possible win-win

Geyser in Yellowstone National Park, U.S. (source: flickr/ Upsilon Andromedae, creative commons)
Alexander Richter Alexander Richter 17 Aug 2017

Researchers at NASA in the U.S. are seeing geothermal power generation as one option to help cool down the supervolcano at Yellowstone National Park and thereby minimize the risk of an eventually devastating eruption.

The supervolcano at Yellowstone National Park in the United States is considered a great threat to humankind. While its beautiful manifestations in the form of geysers and hot springs define the national park, the enormous magma chamber is seen as a great threat if it were to erupt.

So there have been several studies on what could be done to minimize the risk and cooling down the volcano has been seen as one – while crazy option, as described in an article by BBC today.

But, so the article, NASA might have conceived a rather interesting plan – as it concerns geothermal energy utilisation. Nasa, believes “the most viable solution could be to drill up to 10km down into the supervolcano, and pump down water at high pressure. The circulating water would return at a temperature of around 350 degrees Celsius  (662 F), thus slowly day by day extracting heat from the volcano. And while such a project would come at an estimated cost of around $3.46 bn (GBP 2.69 bn), it comes with an enticing catch which could convince politicians to make the investment.”

“Yellowstone currently leaks around 6GW in heat,” says Brian Wilcox of Nasa’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL) at the California Institute of Technology. “Through drilling in this way, it could be used to create a geothermal plant, which generates electric power at extremely competitive prices of around $0.10/kWh. You would have to give the geothermal companies incentives to drill somewhat deeper and use hotter water than they usually would, but you would pay back your initial investment, and get electricity which can power the surrounding area for a period of potentially tens of thousands of years. And the long-term benefit is that you prevent a future supervolcano eruption which would devastate humanity.”

… a rather interesting approach and article … so lets see if this actually might become reality.

Source: BBC