Kilauea: 4 Major Explosions Send Ash, Vog 15K Ft High, Power Plant Questionable

Mike Mish Shedlock

A geothermal plant has never been engulfed by lava. We are on the verge of discovering the risks.

The Huffington Post reports New Lava Flow Encroaches Onto Power Station Property On Hawaii’s Big Island.

Encroachment on the property started several days ago, and dozens of nearby homes have been destroyed, but the big question is "what's happening underground?" No one seems to know for sure. Area residents long complained about toxic gas.

A broad lava flow crossed onto the property of a Hawaii geothermal power station on Saturday, posing a new hazard as molten rock from the erupting Kilauea volcano bulldozed relentlessly through homes and backyards.

Since Hawaii’s Kilauea volcano began a once-in-a-century-scale eruption May 3, authorities have shut down the plant, removed 60,000 gallons of flammable liquid and deactivated wells that tap into steam and gas deep in the Earth’s core.

Lava has never engulfed a geothermal plant anywhere in the world and the potential threat is untested, according to the head of the state’s emergency management agency. Local residents fear an explosive emission of deadly hydrogen sulfide and other gases should wells be ruptured.

Residents have complained of health hazards from emissions from the plant since it went online in 1989 and PGV has been the target of lawsuits challenging its location on the flank of one of the world’s most active volcanoes.

Operator Ormat Technologies last week said there was no above-ground damage to the plant but it would have to wait until the situation stabilized to assess the impact of earthquakes and subterranean lava flows on the wells.

In just the past 24 hours there were between 250 and 270 earthquakes at Kilauea’s summit, with four explosions on Saturday sending ash to altitudes as high as 12,000-15,000 feet, said Stovall and National Weather Service meteorologist John Bravender.

Winds are set to shift on Monday and Tuesday, causing higher concentrations of ash and volcanic smog that will spread west and northwest to affect more populated areas, Bravender said.

Blue Flames

Methane, which burns blue, provides interesting blue flame images from the eruption.


Vog is a form of air pollution that results when sulfur dioxide and other gases and particles emitted by an erupting volcano react with oxygen and moisture in the presence of sunlight. The word is a portmanteau of the words "volcanic", "smog", and "fog".

Fracking Debate

ZeroHedge notes the debate may be a matter of terminology, because in the geothermal process, as reports, “…the drilling and the injection of cold water into hot rocks used in geothermal energy plants does fracture the rocks, which can induce earthquakes and through contamination of the atmosphere and water tables can affect our health and safety.”

Green Energy

"One scandal that could haunt [Harry] Reid for his remaining time in the Senate (and possibly beyond) was reported on recently in the Washington Free Beacon and Courthouse News. It seems the Reid helped the green energy company, Ormat Technologies, a firm that owns and manages geothermal plants in California and Hawaii, secure nearly $136 million in economic stimulus funding from the 2009 American Recovery and Reinvestment Act.”

“Two former employees are suing the firm, claiming Ormat executives defrauded the United States of more than $130 million by reporting false information about two projects to get government grants, a federal judge ruled Tuesday.”

“Reid’s ties to Ormat are deep. The company runs geothermal plants in Nevada and Reid has been a big booster of the company in D.C. As reported in the Free Beacon, ‘Reid bragged about securing Ormat a $350 million loan guarantee from the Department of Energy (DOE) and took credit for expanding the Treasury program that the former employees say illicitly provided Ormat with millions more in taxpayer funds’.”

“It is also worth noting that Ormat’s DOE award came a year after investors sued the company for allegedly inflating its stock price through ‘fraudulent accounting and overstated financial results.’ Ormat settled the allegations in 2012 for $3.1 million.”

More on Harry Reid's Green Energy

The American Energy Alliance notes Harry Reid Reaps Subsidies for Green Energy Companies

Sen. Reid exploited the gusher of taxpayer funds made available by the federal stimulus in 2009. The stimulus funneled billions of dollars to green energy companies, many of which went bankrupt after receiving federal support.

Ormat Geothermal received a $350 million loan guarantee after the company donated to the CEP and its president gave money to Sen. Reid’s political campaign.

The article concludes, and I wholeheartedly agree:

The solution is to let Americans – not politicians – make their own energy choices. While Sen. Reid brags about giving preferential treatment to companies that support his political allies, American families suffer the consequences. This system of cronyism creates inefficiencies by propping up failing companies at the expense of successful ones.

Time Lapse Video of Lava Engulfing Street

Blue Flame Video

Wow. Best wished to Hawaii

Mike "Mish" Shedlock

Comments (18)
No. 1-18

Absolutely brilliant to build housing and a geothermal power plant in close proximity to an active volcano. Absolutely brilliant.


I agree - if you think about it, any form of green energy is irresponsible for humanity. Geothermal? Fracks the rocks and causes earthquakes and volcanoes. Wind? Kills birds and prevents pollination because there is no wind left anymore. Solar? Drains the Sun's energy.

Coal is the answer!

We don't need politicians to do these collective, socialist experiments. Everyone should have their own personal coal powered power plant in the backyard and everything will come back into balance.


What insurers are exposed to large losses? And folks will rebuild just like in Houston flood zones.


With the Puna Geothermal Venture power plant shut down and all the pentane removed, there are probably no additional risks posed other than destruction of the plant itself. I see a many new stories voicing concerns that the geothermal wells will potentially spew hydrogen sulfide gas from deep underground, poisoning people in the neighborhood or causing a large explosion. Compared to what? How can a dozen manmade holes in the ground make things measurably worse when a nearby natural volcanic fissure is spewing a fountain of lava and poisonous, explosive gasses everywhere?


Calm down. The plant has been off-line since the threat began, the only building affected on the property so far has been an old shed.


So much toxic and greenhouse gases emitted so far by this sole volcano in a small eruption.

How does this compare to man made emissions in the same period? Do the environmental nazis even consider?

Volcanos are 100% natural and have been part of the earth's ecology since the dawn of time.


Do you propose that everyone will have a private geothermal power plant in backyard or that some politicians lobby it for the whole population?

You sure sound like a collectivist to me, but I am not 100% confident yet. Better confess now, if you are one!


Geothermal is actually very good technology. Why you would build it next to an active volcano is the question. Of course, you might also ask why you would build houses near an active volcano as well, or in flood planes for that matter. I imagine we will soon be watching stories about flooding in Florida, Texas, Georgia, Louisiana etc as hurricane and tropical storm season begins.


I think that the volcano area has a lot of steam and hot water wells under it, which is how geothermal works. As to the home building there, news interviews have said people were able to buy the land in the volcano cheap and knew they were taking a chance. I only hope the government doesn't pay to allow anyone to rebuild in that area!


Imagine 3 million barrels of oil burning every minute of every hour of every day, then you get the picture.


Sorry, 3 million gallons a minute.

Global Economics