Lava Cooling Efforts Near Svartsengi Power Plant Halted Skip to content

Lava Cooling Efforts Near Svartsengi Power Plant Halted

By Ragnar Tómas

Fire truck pumps water at lava
Photo: Screenshot from RÚV.

A small lava spurt breached the barrier protecting the Svartsengi power plant on the Reykjanes peninsula yesterday. Firefighters responded by using water from fire trucks to halt the lava flow. They also experimented with cooling machinery but encountered issues relating to water pressure.

Extensive operations

Yesterday, a small spurt of lava from the eruption near Sundhnúkagígaröð on the Reykjanes peninsula breached the earthen barrier protecting the Svartsengi power plant. The Grindavík fire department, along with various contractors working for the Department of Civil Protection and Emergency Management, managed to stem the flow of the lava by pumping water from fire trucks.

The team also experimented with cooling machinery in the event that the lava would begin to flow farther over the barrier.

In an interview with Vísir yesterday, Einar Sveinn Jónsson, Chief of the Grindavík Fire Department, noted that the lava had not flowed far over the barrier but that if it encroached any further, they wanted to be ready to respond: “There are men operating machinery on top of the barrier endeavouring to stop the flow of lava,” Einar stated. “There is a significant distance to the Svartsengi power plant, but we do not want any flow over the barrier.”

Last employed in 1973

As noted by Vísir, lava cooling has not been employed since the eruption on the Westman Islands in 1973. According to Einar, the method is not technically complex, although it requires a substantial amount of water to be effective.

“It requires large pipes and a lot of water. These are extensive operations. We get water from the Svartsengi power plant. We have support from Isavia [a public company that operates the airports in Iceland], the Suðurnes Fire Department, and the Árnessýsla Fire Department, along with dedicated people from the Department of Civil Protection and Emergency Management,” Einar told Vísir.

Einar added that he did not know how long operations would last but that the team would remain in place for as long as necessary. “We will take the evening as it comes and see what happens,” he concluded by saying.

Read More: Wall of Fire (On the Construction of Lava Barriers on Reykjanes)

Water-pressure issues

In an interview with Vísir this morning, Ásgeir Þórisson, duty officer with the Suðurnes Fire Department, stated that the firefighters’ experiment with lava-cooling machinery yesterday had proven unsuccessful; the team had encountered problems relating to water pressure. Hjördís Guðmundsdóttir, Director of Communications with the Department of Civil Protection and Emergency Management, stressed that these efforts had simply been an experiment.

As reported last week, the Icelandic government has approved nearly ISK half a billion [$3.6 million / €3.3 million] for equipment to cool lava near Grindavík and Svartsengi, but this equipment has yet to arrive in Iceland.

As reported by RÚV this morning, lava-cooling efforts were halted this morning; although experiment with lava-cooling machinery had failed, two fire trucks had pumped water at the lava for hours on end. It will become more apaprent how effective their efforts were as the morning progresses.

Continuous lava flow

As noted by the Icelandic Meteorological Office yesterday, the eruption on the Reykjanes peninsula remains fairly stable, with lava flowing from one crater, mainly northwards along Mt. Sýlingafell. Land uplift in Svartsengi continues at a similar but slightly slower rate than before the eruption started.

This article was updated at 9:23 AM

Sign up for our weekly newsletter

Get news from Iceland, photos, and in-depth stories delivered to your inbox every week!

* indicates required

Subscribe to Iceland Review

In-depth stories and high-quality photography showcasing life in Iceland!