Saturday, 20 October, 2018

New Zealand quake scientists make surprising find underground

New Zealand quake scientists make surprising find underground New Zealand quake scientists make surprising find underground
Frank Williams | 19 May, 2017, 07:05

He said the hot water could potentially be used by the dairy industry as a heating source to dry milk. A team of more than 100 scientists from 12 countries, led by Otago University, Victoria University and GNS Science, drilled almost 900m (3000 ft) into the South Island's Alpine Fault, with the aim of better understanding how earthquakes occur along geological faults zones.

The discovery could transform the economy and resilience of Westland, and provide a significant and sustainable clean energy resource that could be developed using local people and equipment, says Warren Gilbertson, chief operating officer of Development West Coast.

The site was drilled by a team of more than 100 scientists from 12 countries, who were working to understand how earthquakes occur on geological faults. "This geothermal activity may sound alarming but it is a wonderful scientific finding that could be commercially very significant for NZ".

Hot Water Underneath New Zealand Mountain A Potential Energy Source?

Rupert Sutherland, professor of tectonics and geophysics at the Victoria University of Wellington, wrote in an article for The Conversation: "It is expected to rupture in a major quake in the next few decades and, even though this may not happen in the next 30 years or even 100 years, we know that the fault is at the end of its seismic cycle". However, this sudden discovery has charged-up the scientists and they are quite excited about the unexpected finding. "It's a totally new paradigm".

The researchers arrived at two conclusions, which could explain the creation of the hot water found underneath the fault line. These forces pushed up hot rocks from 30km (19 miles) deep so quickly that they did not have a chance to cool properly.

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The scientists also believe that previous Earthquakes' shaking may have broken the rocks, enabling the snow melt and rain water to seamlessly permeate through the mountain's hot interiors. This concentrates the heat that is underneath the vales. Older theories suggest that water gains heat as the depth increases. However, in normal conditions, the temperature recorded for the water underneath the Alpine Fault at 630 meters is found only when one reaches about 2 miles (3 kms) underground. He stated that the hot water discovery in no way predicts a definite timeline for the next quake.

Another of the lead scientists, Victoria University researcher Rupert Sutherland, told Nine to Noon no one on the team predicted it would be that hot so close to the surface.

The Westland Deep Fault Drilling Project - jointly led by Victoria University of Wellington, GNS Science and the University of Otago - drilled nearly 900m into the fault from a site in Whataroa near Franz Joseph.

He said before any commercial ventures begin, scientists will need to determine the extent of the hot water, what purposes it could be used for, how easy it is to extract, and whether it can be done safely.

New Zealand already generates about 15 percent of its electricity from geothermal sources, most of it from the Taupo volcanic zone in the central North Island.

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