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Old 2010-04-21, 19:25   #1
xilman
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Default An engineering problem

Someone who shall remain nameless, but who I will call AKL, suggested that it might be a good idea to remove Iceland. The premise is that the cost of Iceland to the world economy in general and to that of Europe in particular is exhorbitant. Rather than shut down European airspace, it would be cheaper to relocate circa 250K Icelanders and then remove the island itself.

My initial idea was to drill holes into the main magma chambers and let in a few cubic km of seawater. The resulting steam explosion would move quite a lot of rock sideways into the deeper waters of the north Atlantic.

On reflection, I concluded that this approach has at least two drawbacks. The first is that there may be too much collateral damage. The second is that it almost certainly wouldn't do the job completely and that some tidying up would be required afterwards. However, as Iceland keeps coming back anyway (islands are forever popping up around the present coastline) a continuing operation would be needed anyway so perhaps the second drawback isn't that serious.

On further reflection, I re-examined the question. If all we really want to do is to stop the Icelanders from buggering everyone else with their volcanoes perhaps we should take a leaf from the treehuggers' manual. If coal-fired power plants have to scrub ash, SO_2 and CO_2 from their emissions, why shouldn't the Icelanders be required to do the same from their geothermal energy sources? This led to the idea of putting a roof over Iceland and not letting anything out until the pollutants had been removed.

Any other proposals?

Any elaborations and/or improvements on my initial ideas? In particular, costings and engineering designs for the roof and scrubbers would be most welcome.

Paul
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Old 2010-04-21, 20:35   #2
ewmayer
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The problem with the drill-holes-to-admit-seawater approach is that it would be nigh-impossible to control the result ... there would be the likelihood of turning an annoying long-but-fairly-low-level release of excess pressure and heat into an explosive eruption. You would be opening a "Tambora's box", if you will. More promising than that (or a roof which would likely require more construction material than the sum total used in all human history) seems to be to divert a steady flow of water of the right amount to approximately balance the heat release of the volcano, and hopefully quench the dust and SO2 emissions to something more tolerable that way. You'd want most of that water to come in from the top, in order to take advantage of the wet scrubber effect.

Of course, that could only have a glimmer of working with a quasi-steady continual eruption as at present, not with e.g. a Katla-style explosive eruption which volcanologists fear may be coming soon. According to this site "Iceland's Eyjafjoell [sic - it's really spelt Eyjafjallajökull] volcano is emitting between 150,000 and 300,000 tonnes of carbon dioxide (CO2) per day, a figure placing it in the same emissions league as a small-to-medium European economy" ... that doesn't mention the total volume of particulates (the volcanic equivalent of power-plant fly ash), but a similar order-of-magnitude estimate likely applies for those, too.

By way of a dust-and-gas-scrubber size estimate: A Katla-style eruption can release upwards of a cubic km of ash in a day. A typical coal-fired power plant produces roughly 1 ton of fly ash per 10 tons of coal burned (and needs about 10 tons of coal per day per megawatt capacity, i.e. figure 1 ton per day of ash per MW capacity). So if you want a chance of of scrubbing a big eruption like that, you'd need scrubbing capacity suitable (using that uncompacted volcanic ash has a density around that of water, i.e. ~1 ton/m^3) for around 10^9 MW (= 10^15 W, or 1000 TW) of coal-fired power generation, which is roughly 100x greater than the total capacity of all the coal-fired power plants on earth. Good luck with that...

--------------

An amusing joke about has been making the rounds which ties the Iceland volcano to the global financial crisis (Paul`s comments appear to reflect - even if facetiously - the popular UK view of the Icelanders as being defaulting deadbeats with respect to compensation of foreign investors in their now-nationalized banks) - it takes the form of a (fictitious letter) from the Icelandic Parliament to UK prime minister Gordon Brown regarding Icesave:

Dear United Kingdom:

In response to your demand to send cash immediately ...
Please note the Icelandic Alphabet does not contain the letter "C".
We have complied with your request as best as our language allows.
It's not easy to conjure up a volcano at will to spew tons of ash.
Please consider our debt paid in full.

Respectfully yours
Iceland
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Old 2010-04-21, 22:38   #3
petrw1
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Reminds me of a riddle that was making the rounds in Canada a while back when the Province of Quebec was on a mission to separate from the rest of Canada and become an independent country.

Note: We Canadians like to pick on Newfoundlanders (aka Newfies).

It went something like:

Quote:
Q: Why are the Newfies all in favor of Quebec separating?
A: Because then it wouldn't be as long a drive to Ontario.
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Old 2010-04-22, 12:30   #4
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Quote:
Originally Posted by ewmayer View Post
Dear United Kingdom:

In response to your demand to send cash immediately ...
Please note the Icelandic Alphabet does not contain the letter "C".
We have complied with your request as best as our language allows.
It's not easy to conjure up a volcano at will to spew tons of ash.
Please consider our debt paid in full.

Respectfully yours
Iceland
A: "I'm thirsty"
B: "Would you like some water?"
A: "I said I'm thirsty, not dirty"
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Old 2010-04-22, 12:51   #5
retina
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Don't take the hard route of trying to remove the island. Or even trying to contain all emissions from the island. Just plainly, and simply, get the Icelanders to pay back the airlines and whomever else was affected. Exceedingly simple solution IMO. It will teach them a lesson for next time: If you wanna spew ash then ya gotta pay. $200B for the first day, $1T for the full week.

Last fiddled with by retina on 2010-04-22 at 12:54 Reason: Adjusting the figures a little
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Old 2010-04-23, 11:37   #6
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Quote:
Originally Posted by retina View Post
Don't take the hard route of trying to remove the island. Or even trying to contain all emissions from the island. Just plainly, and simply, get the Icelanders to pay back the airlines and whomever else was affected. Exceedingly simple solution IMO. It will teach them a lesson for next time: If you wanna spew ash then ya gotta pay. $200B for the first day, $1T for the full week.
I don't think it was the Icelanders' fault. It was the mole people made the volcano erupt!
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Old 2010-04-23, 15:41   #7
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My proposal is to try a car idea I've tried to send GM and other car makers if it all works properly I could help remove co2 and replace it with O2 (might need energy not to be o3 instead). I propose a CO2 filter (like David Keith of University of Calgary showed on discovery) be used to get co2 to react with water to form sugars etc. if my idea works we'd clean the air of most methane levels made as well. Anyone actually want more of my idea (could work in a hydrogen/solar hybrid I think)

Quote:
Originally Posted by xilman View Post

Any other proposals?

Paul

Last fiddled with by science_man_88 on 2010-04-23 at 15:45
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Old 2010-04-23, 23:00   #8
Uncwilly
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Quote:
Originally Posted by science_man_88 View Post
My proposal is to try a car idea I've tried to send GM and other car makers if it all works properly I could help remove co2 and replace it with O2 (might need energy not to be o3 instead).
PM me some details.
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Old 2010-04-24, 00:23   #9
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I wonder how feasible it would be to construct a large Stirling engine (or several) at the site and use it (them) to generate electricity. How much temperature drop could be realized for each megawatt?

Or, what about a combination steam engine, water distillery? Pump salt water from the nearby source, use it in a steam engine heated by the volcano, condense the output steam into fresh water. Use the power generated to run the pumps, etc.
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Old 2010-04-26, 15:19   #10
ewmayer
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Quote:
Originally Posted by lfm View Post
I don't think it was the Icelanders' fault. It was the mole people made the volcano erupt!
Ha ... I have a movie poster for The Mole People on the outside of my cube at work. (It seems an apt metaphor for cubicle-dwelling code moles, you see). "Terrifying monsters from a lost age of B-movie shlockiness!!"
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Old 2010-04-26, 20:46   #11
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Quote:
Originally Posted by ewmayer View Post
Dear United Kingdom:

In response to your demand to send cash immediately ...
Please note the Icelandic Alphabet does not contain the letter "C".
We have complied with your request as best as our language allows.
It's not easy to conjure up a volcano at will to spew tons of ash.
Please consider our debt paid in full.

Respectfully yours
Iceland[/i]
I sense foul play ;-)
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