Dec 20, 2016

Geologists are creating the hottest borehole in the world

2 min
Researchers from the Iceland Deep Drilling Project (IDDP) are drilling 5km down into the heart of volcano to bring steam up from the deep well to the...

Researchers from the Iceland Deep Drilling Project (IDDP) are drilling 5km down into the heart of volcano to bring steam up from the deep well to the surface. This will provide an important source of energy.

The volcano last erupted 700 years ago but 5km down temperatures are expected to exceed 500C.

A huge rig stands out on the lava fields and the drill inside has been operating 24 hours a day since August. The borehole is expected to be completed any day now but latest reports had it at 4,254m deep, making it the deepest hole in Iceland.

A borehole taps into underground stores of water or steam to run power plants to produce clean, renewable electricity.

At the moment, these boreholes are only drilled down to two or three kilometres to harness the steam but the team behind the project in the Reykjanes region want to see if the resources go deeper than that. As well as being an important energy project, the team has also been bringing up core samples to see what kind of rock is hidden that far under the surface.

At 5km the team expects to find molten rock mixed with water but with the extreme heat and pressure at this depth, the water becomes what is known as supercritical steam. This is neither a liquid nor a gas but it holds far much more than either state. It’s this steam the team wants to bring back up to convert into electricity. This steam has the potential to produce up to 10 times as much energy as that from conventional geothermal sources.

If this works, we’ll have to drill fewer holes for the same amount of energy, which means less environmental impact and lower costs.

When drilling into a volcano there are obvious risks. Back in 2009 the IDDP drilled just 2,100m into a shallow reserve of magma. Hitting these kinds of temperatures meant the drill was destroyed and black smoke billowed up from the well.

There’s a chance that if the drill does hit magma it’ll bubble straight up to the surface thanks to the enormous amounts of pressure at that depth. This would cause huge problems for the drilling operation although the researchers don’t believe they’ll hit any magma at the 5km depth.

At this stage the IDDP is drilling blind with no rock fragments coming up on the drill. It’s instead being absorbed into the surrounding rock. This means the researchers can’t exactly be sure what they’re drilling into without having these samples to study.

With just a few hundred metres to go, the team is optimistic the world’s hottest borehole is within their reach.

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Jun 7, 2021

Trafigura and Yara International explore clean ammonia usage

Dominic Ellis
2 min
Commodity trading company Trafigura and Yara International sign MoU to explore developing ammonia as a clean fuel in shipping

Independent commodity trading company Trafigura and Yara International have signed an MoU to explore developing ammonia as a clean fuel in shipping and ammonia fuel infrastructure.

Reducing shipping emissions is a vital component of the fight against global climate change, yet Greenhouse Gas emissions from the global maritime sector are increasing - and at odds with the IMO's strategy to cut absolute emissions by at least 50% by 2050. 

How more than 70,000 ships can decrease their reliance on carbon-based sources is one of transport's most pressing decarbonisation challenges.

Yara and Trafigura intend to collaborate on initiatives that will establish themselves in the clean ammonia value chain. Under the MoU announced today, Trafigura and Yara intend to work together in the following areas:

  • The supply of clean ammonia by Yara to Trafigura Group companies
  • Exploration of joint R&D initiatives for clean ammonia application as a marine fuel
  • Development of new clean ammonia assets including marine fuel infrastructure and market opportunities

Magnus Krogh Ankarstrand, President of Yara Clean Ammonia, said the agreement is a good example of cross-industry collaboration to develop and promote zero-emission fuel in the form of clean ammonia for the shipping industry. "Building clean ammonia value chains is critical to facilitate the transition to zero emission fuels by enabling the hydrogen economy – not least within trade and distribution where both Yara and Trafigura have leading capabilities. Demand and supply of clean ammonia need to be developed in tandem," he said.  

There is a growing consensus that hydrogen-based fuels will ultimately be the shipping fuels of the future, but clear and comprehensive regulation is essential, according to Jose Maria Larocca, Executive Director and Co-Head of Oil Trading for Trafigura.

Ammonia has a number of properties that require "further investigation," according to Wartsila. "It ignites and burns poorly compared to other fuels and is toxic and corrosive, making safe handling and storage important. Burning ammonia could also lead to higher NOx emissions unless controlled either by aftertreatment or by optimising the combustion process," it notes.

Trafigura has co-sponsored the R&D of MAN Energy Solutions’ ammonia-fuelled engine for maritime vessels, has performed in-depth studies of transport fuels with reduced greenhouse gas emissions, and has published a white paper on the need for a global carbon levy for shipping fuels to be introduced by International Maritime Organization.

Oslo-based Yara produces roughly 8.5 million tonnes of ammonia annually and employs a fleet of 11 ammonia carriers, including 5 fully owned ships, and owns 18 marine ammonia terminals with 580 kt of storage capacity – enabling it to produce and deliver ammonia across the globe.

It recently established a new clean ammonia unit to capture growth opportunities in emission-free fuel for shipping and power, carbon-free fertilizer and ammonia for industrial applications.

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