60,000 Gallons of flammable liquid removed from volcano risk hawaii geothermal plant watts up with that gas bubbler


Puna Geothermal Venture has removed 60,000 litres gallons of flammable Pentane from a geothermal plant in the path of the Hawaii volcanic eruption. But concerns remain that if the geothermal wells break, they could flood the neighbourhood with toxic volcanic gasses.

PAHOA, Hawaii — The dangers of building a home on the skirt of an active volcano have become quite clear in recent days, as residents here have needed to evacuate from neighborhoods around Kilauea to avoid the lava flows and toxic gases that have emerged from numerous fissures.

But the advancing molten rock — and the potential for future eruptions and ejections of boulders — threatens more than the homes. Nearby, nestled between two neighborhoods, is a geothermal plant that is home to thousands of gallons of flammable chemicals and deep wells that pose serious risks if they overheat or are breached.

Long a concern for residents and the target of lawsuits challenging its placement on an active volcano, the Puna Geothermal Venture (PGV) is a major safety issue in the wake of the eruptions and earthquakes that have shaken the Big Island for days, government officials say. Authorities worry that the seismic activity could cause gas leaks or explosions at the plant, which is near fissures that have broken the surface. Before dawn Thursday, PGV employees removed a large reserve of pentane — 60,000 gallons of highly flammable solvent used in the powering of wind turbines — because of fears that it could leak and ignite.

Residents and officials remain concerned about potential explosions and toxic gas leaks from the underground wells that provide heat for energy production. If the wells break, they could release dangerous gas — including colorless, flammable and toxic hydrogen sulfide — into the area around Leilani Estates and Lanipuna Gardens, the evacuated neighborhoods that already are choked with volcanic fumes.

“Volcanologists know there is magma under and around the geothermal well fields,” County of Hawaii Council member Jennifer Ruggles, who represents western Puna, said in a statement Thursday night. “The magma is moving and it is unpredictable. There is a real risk that the wells could be damaged.”

I’m shocked to learn geothermal plants use Pentane in such quantities. Pentane is a heavier than air unbreathable hydrocarbon gas low boiling point liquid, very similar to though slightly heavier than butane and propane. A potential suffocation risk if released in large quantities, in addition to the risk of explosion. Hydrogen sulfide is also very nasty, even small concentrations can incapacitate and kill in minutes.

I have been consistently watching the daily USGS quake map since the Great Tohoku Quake in March 2011. That is what got my interest in the first place. I started keeping a daily log at Newsvine.com some months after that. Mainly, I started keeping track of the change in the number of quakes per 24 hour period, of 2.5 mag or greater.

From there it wasn’t long before I noticed that it appeared as if there was a correlation with the lunar phases from New to Full. I even tried my hand at predicting with some success, and one spot on prediction. I gave up on that as I came to realize that it was too random a process. The Moon correlation was persistent though.

Which brings me to current conditions. Around the first week of April the quake map moved out of sync with the typical patterns which I have noted over the years. Shortly after that I picked up on a claim by the USGS that April is the prime month for 6.0+ mag quakes, followed by May as second most prevalent month for larger quakes. Tying that thought in with what I see as the current state of the climate as one where we have entered into a cyclical solar induced cold trend, then it is possible that this explains why the 24 rate has gone out of sync for the last 2 months. At the moment it would be hard for someone to take note of the lunar effects on the daily/monthly 24 hour rate of change. As the daily quake map shows a higher than normal pattern of quakes that are 4.5 mag or greater and are classified with bold type by USGS, indicating a stronger quake. You can see that here, … https://earthquake.usgs.gov/earthquakes/map/#%7B%22autoUpdate%22%3A%5B%22autoUpdate%22%5D%2C%22basemap%22%3A%22satellite%22%2C%22feed%22%3A%221day_m25%22%2C%22listFormat%22%3A%22default%22%2C%22mapposition%22%3A%5B%5B-78.49055166160312%2C11.6015625%5D%2C%5B78.49055166160312%2C390.234375%5D%5D%2C%22overlays%22%3A%5B%22plates%22%5D%2C%22restrictListToMap%22%3A%5B%22restrictListToMap%22%5D%2C%22search%22%3Anull%2C%22sort%22%3A%22newest%22%2C%22timezone%22%3A%22utc%22%2C%22viewModes%22%3A%5B%22list%22%2C%22map%22%5D%2C%22event%22%3Anull%7D

Pentane is the working fluid of choice for secondary heat recovery in geothermal energy production. In a coal-fired power plant, the steam is usually heated to near 1000°F (540°C). Geothermal wells produce water or steam at much lower temperature and pressure, so the steam generated has less enthalpy (energy). This steam is passed through a heat exchanger to make steam for the primary turbine. It contains too many particles and minerals to send to the turbine directly. To recover more heat, the working fluid is then passed through another heat exchanger to boil pentane (normal boiling point of 36°C) and extract more work out of it before returning the water to the well. I am shocked, shocked that the geothermal power plant would be located in a geothermally hot area!!! Do these green Hawaiians think that a geothermal power plant can be located elsewhere? I watched an interview with the plant manager. People asked him if he was going to close the wells (fill them with concrete). His answer was “no”. He pointed out that the 6.9 earthquake did no damage to the wells, so he was confident that they were safe. They did plan to shut in the wells by filling them with water.

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