Day 3 – Geothermal activities

The third day of our journey was full of events and action. Once again, the Oddson hotel breakfast proved its worthy and provided a strong basis for the upcoming day trip. The trip consisted of three events – first we visited a geothermal power plant; in the afternoon we went for a hike to see the Natthagi lava field and the active volcanic eruption; and finally we seized the day at the blue lagoon spa.

The day began with an excursion to the Hellisheidi power station, the largest geothermal plant of the country, that also supplied district heating for the city of Reykjavik. We were given lectures about the seismology of the volcanic area and the control of the geothermal heat resource. The power generation itself was nothing but a conventional thermal power conversion with steam turbines, combined with a 2 kilometre borehole, from which saturated steam was directly extracted. It is amazing how the nature had blessed the Icelandic people with such high-value energy reservoir, and how the Icelanders have gained expertise in utilizing this resource, enabling redundant and affordable clean energy for the country.

The Hellisheidi hosts pointed out, though, that geothermal energy is not totally emission free, but small fractions of CO2, H2S and H2 are emitted. For addressing this issue, the power station was equipped with an emission capturing pilot plant where the carbon and sulphur emissions were mineralized and sequestrated into the basaltic bedrock. The pilot plant was part of the CarbFix and SulFix research projects, carried out by the local energy supplier Orka náttúrunnar and three universities. The concept had proven in sequestrating carbon and sulphur emissions, and was actually the first CCS plant Lämpövoimakerho had ever visited. As the sulphur and carbon were initially originating from the Icelandic bedrock, a local material circulation loop was actually formed, where the elements were reinjected back to their origin.

After the day’s excursion, we began our journey towards one of the highlights of our trip in Iceland, the Nátthagi lava fields. Due to the ongoing active volcanic eruptions in the area, we were really excited to see some real red hot lava in action. The half an hour drive to the area was already enough to rise the spirits of everyone. The mountains, the sea, the 80’s rock on the radio, the sheep and even the road markings were a reason for celebration. “Ai että!”, shouted Inka every 45 seconds revealing the hype everyone was feeling.

Arrival. Parking the cars. Clothing up. Walking for 2 minutes. Getting hot. Realizing we have too much clothes on. Undressing some. Finally, we were off! Trekking along the Langihryggur’s ridge and taking in the prehistoric scenery, we started ascending the mountains. A bit of rain and a lot of pictures later we finally saw some orange among the blackness of the older lava rock. It was quite far away but thankfully we still had the closer vantage point of mountain Stóri Hrutur to conquer.

At the base of Stóri Hrutur the bursts of magma could be seen more clearly. Straight out of National Geographic. Ai että. Some of us also took the steep path up the mountain to get a better aerial view of the surrounding area. After some more pictures, crazy wind, a little hailstorm and the trek back to the cars, we were a bit tired but happy.

To end the day, what would be better than local fish & chips and the warm mineral rich waters of the Blue Lagoon? Straight from the cold winds of the mountains to the geothermal warmth of the stunning outdoor spa. On the drive back to the hotel, Belinda Carlisle’s song “Heaven Is a Place on Earth” played on the radio and I think we had found proof of that this day.

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