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Abstract: Utilization of Magma Energy

John L. Colp, Previous HitHaroldTop M. Stoller

The Magma Energy Research Project, under way at Sandia Laboratories since 1973 and sponsored by the U.S. Department of Energy Division of Basic Energy Science, has as its objective the investigation of the scientific feasibility of extracting energy directly from buried magma sources. With temperatures in the order of 1,000°C, buried magma sources represent great amounts of clean, high-quality energy. The U.S. Geological Survey estimates the energy contained in molten and partially molten magma within 10 km of the surface of the United States at 5 × 104 quads, about 700 times the annual total energy consumption of the United States.

As part of this project, an experiment to demonstrate the abilities of a variety of geophysical sensing systems to delineate the buried molten lens in Kilauea Iki crater on the Island of Hawaii has been conducted. A program of drilling into and through the molten lens to verify the sensing systems results is under way. A continuing research program on the physical properties of selected igneous rocks under dynamic stress conditions at pressures up to 4 kbar (400,000 kPa) and at temperatures to 1,000°C is under way at the Center for Tectonophysics at Texas A&M University. From the results of this study, questions as to borehole stability at near-magma conditions can be answered. Experimental and computational studies are being performed to define the in-situ magma environment. Laboratory experiments of the compatibility of engineering materials to the magma environment have indicated that nickel-based alloys appear to survive. To continue the materials investigations, a large-volume, high-pressure, high-temperature Magma Simulation Facility is under construction. Laboratory experiments and calculations indicate that thermal heat exchangers can survive while immersed in molten rock and can accomplish significant rates of heat transfer to an internal fluid.

AAPG Search and Discovery Article #90962©1978 AAPG 2nd Circum-Pacific Energy and Minerals Resource Conference, Honolulu, Hawaii