Direct Observation of Rhyolite Magma by Drilling: The Proposed Krafla Magma Drilling Project

Friday, 19 December 2014: 5:00 PM
John C Eichelberger, University of Alaska Fairbanks, Office of the Graduate School, Fairbanks, AK, United States, Freysteinn Sigmundsson, University of Iceland, Nordic Volcanological Center, Institute of Earth Sciences, Reykjavik, Iceland, Paolo Papale, INGV, Pisa, Italy, Sigurdur Markusson, Landsvirkjun, Reykjavik, Iceland and Susan Loughlin, British Geological Survey, Edinburgh, United Kingdom
Remarkably, drilling in Landsvirkjun Co.’s geothermal field in Krafla Caldera, Iceland has encountered rhyolite magma or hypersolidus rhyolite at 2.1–2.5 km depth in 3 wells distributed over 3.5 km2, including Iceland Deep Drilling Program’s IDDP-1 (Mortensen, 2012). Krafla’s most recent rifting and eruption (basalt) episode was 1975-1984; deformation since that time has been simple decay. Apparently rhyolite magma was either emplaced during that episode without itself erupting or quietly evolved in situ within 2-3 decades. Analysis of drill cuttings containing quenched melt from IDDP-1 yielded unprecedented petrologic data (Zierenberg et al, 2012). But interpreting active processes of heat and mass transfer requires knowing spatial variations in physical and chemical characteristics at the margin of the magma body, and that requires retrieving core - a not-inconceivable task. Core quenched in situ in melt up to 1150oC was recovered from Kilauea Iki lava lake, Hawaii by the Magma Energy Project >30 years ago. The site from which IDDP-1 was drilled, and perhaps IDDP-1 itself, may be available to attempt the first-ever coring of rhyolite magma, now proposed as the Krafla Magma Drilling Project (KMDP). KMDP would also include geophysical and geochemical experiments to measure the response of the magma/hydrothermal system to fluid injection and flow tests. Fundamental results will reveal the behavior of magma in the upper crust and coupling between magma and the hydrothermal system. Extreme, sustained thermal power output during flow tests of IDDP-1 suggests operation of a Kilauea-Iki-like freeze-fracture-flow boundary propagating into the magma and mining its latent heat of crystallization (Carrigan et al, EGU, 2014). Such an ultra-hot Enhanced Geothermal System (EGS) might be developable beneath this and other magma-heated conventional hydrothermal systems. Additionally, intra-caldera intrusions like Krafla’s are believed to produce the unrest that is so troubling in populated calderas (e.g., Campi Flegrei, Italy). Experiments with the live system will aid in hazard assessment and eruption forecasting for this most difficult of volcano hazard problems. We will report on an International Continental Scientific Drilling Program (ICDP) workshop held to assess feasibility and to develop a plan for KMDP.