Short note on Hengill volcano man-made earthquake swarm

This is a short note on the Hengill volcano man-made earthquake swarm.

The earthquake swarms that have been taking place in Hengill volcano are man made due to Orkuveita Reykjavíkur pumping down water at the depth of 2500 meters or more (down to 4000 meters from what I have read). It is clear that Orkuveita Reykjavíkur (short name OR) does not have any option but to continue this water pumping, as it is mandated that they do so in there operation permit. They have been doing this for some time now. But when they started using new drilling holes to pump down water the earthquake swarms started to happen. The people at OR claim that it is unlike that this earthquake swarms are going to grow in size and magnitude. I do not agree with that assessment.

It is my view that increased water pumping into the bedrock is going to increase earthquake activity. This has been agreed on by geologist that are not connected to OR or the government. But the largest earthquake that this area can make is Mw 6.0 in size according to a estimate on this area. So far, the largest earthquakes have been up to ML 4.0 in size so far. A jump in magnitude from ML3.5 size that was in earlier pumping was done.

There is also risk of pollution of the groundwater from heavy metals in the hot water (lead, zinc, copper and others). But this risk also seems to have been underestimated. As they claim that pumping down the water below the 800 meters groundwater line does not affect the groundwater. But it seems that no studies (that I know) have been done to confirm this.

News on Rúv about this.

Aukin dæling mun auka skjálftavirkni (Rú, Icelandic)

123 Replies to “Short note on Hengill volcano man-made earthquake swarm”

  1. Aukin dæling mun auka skjálftavirkni
    Increased pumping will increase the seismicity

    Hellisheiðavirkjun. Harald Sigurdsson volcano expert said the utmost reason to go with extreme caution during pumping down the water in the regression of Hellisheidarvrikjun. Need to be unequivocally groundwater contamination with toxic substances. Fear he continued seismicity operated there and near, especially if plans for the expansion of power plant by half fulfilled.
    “There is no evidence that it will reduce, rather it will just be added. Some have argued that rock just gliðni and then reduce the seismic function. This will open up but I’m now not so optimistic. I believe that this earthquake will continue at the same level as it is and if the plant is expanded much as pumping is increased, there would be still higher seismicity. It is something that people have to get used to, “said Harald Sigurdsson told the newsroom RUV.

    Detailed interview with him can be heard in endoscopy Evening news broadcast. And this can be added to Reykjavik Energy and Energy has announced a íbúafundar the case of Ark Hotel operated there at eight in the evening

      1. Giggle is still improving!

        In RÚV they talked about a radio broadcast named “Spegill” (the Mirror).

      2. Do I believe this is a blog where people refer to Wayne’s world???
        Geeeeeeeeeeeeez… 🙂

  2. “Detailed interview with him can be heard in endoscopy Evening news broadcast.”
    Hahahaha, I had an endoscopy but didn’t get a broadcast with it! Giggle translate really is very poor. Wonder what the word translated ‘endoscopy’ really meant?

      1. Who, what, where? Anyone needs a penetrometry-campaign?
        Sorry, really. It’s just that f…ing professional and private live that seriously begins to alter my “Jon’s blog reading”… Never find time to impress with scientific knowledge, now I’m even loosing the opportunities to put in bad jokes. Rhaaaaaa. Life definitely is a bitch – if you want a good one, it’s not cheap… 🙂

    1. “Ítarlegra viðtal við hann má heyra í Speglinum eftir kvöldfréttir útvarps.” Translates to: A more detailed interview with him can be heard in “The Mirror” after the evening (radio) news.

      The Mirror being a more indepth news/magazine show. Wether ‘endoscopy’ sort of captures the idea I don’t know 🙂

  3. Pumping cold water down onto hot rock results in steam that would rise through the rocks and meet the ground water. I suppose the real questions are:

    1) would the steam carry heavy metal or other pollutants?
    2) if the pipes used in the drilling / pumping process fractured or their lining fractured, where would polluted water go?

    1. Also multiple EQs over 2.0, even if they did not reach 6.0, may cause damage to nearby property, especially where these EQs are occuring in their hundreds or thousands.

      1. That’s also, if I understand it right, what Haraldur Sigurdsson was musing about on his a.m. blogsite – how to avoid a possible pollution of ground water.

    1. The water turns to superheated steam which is recovered though porous pipes and used to turn steam turbines to make electricity, and the condensed steam as hot water is pumped to Rekjavik.
      But the power station is about to start an experiment injecting carbon dioxide too:

      1. Thanks! I’ve been wondering why they did it for months. The benefits of Geothermal Power.

  4. Update on El Hierro:

    Update 17/10 – 21:30 UTC : – During a PEVOLCA meeting this evening was decided that a decision for the return of the people to La Restinga has been postponed to 4:00 PM (16:00) tomorrow, due to the present bad air quality (very strong sulfurous odor blowing today in the La Restinga direction). The inhabitants of La Restinga have been invited tomorrow at 4 PM in the cultural center of El Pinar to receive the decision directly from Mr. Santana, the person in charge of the safety measures.
    – Another decision which has been taken was the reopening of the Los Roquillos tunnel from 08:00 until 20:00 (8 AM until 8 PM) but only for emergency vehicles, trucks of more than 3,500 kilos and transport of dangerous goods.

  5. “and transport of dangerous goods”, the world has gone bonkers. Who would like to drive a 3 and a half tonne truck through a tunnel in an active volcano during an eruption with dangerous goods?
    Hm… 😉

    1. Starnge !

      Just to keep it straight
      This Hengill thing is NOT an IDDP project.

      It is a ordinary geothermal power plant, 300 MW el power an ca 100 MW hot water. (if i remember the figures)
      They are streaming ca 500 l/s geothermal “brine” down to ca 800 meters, where it belong , far below the ground water aquifers.

      1. No, it is the IDDP-2 project.

        What you are refering to is the normal Helisheidarvirkjun regular permit operations.

        The IDDP-2 is something else.
        But, the resinking of 500l/s 800 metres into a tripple-junction volcanos rifting fissure, about 1 km away from the magma-chamber… Nice ideah dude.

      2. Common man, Helisheidarvirkjun spill water pump hole is drilled down into the rifting fissure of the tripple junction volcano of Hengill. It has a rather juicy and well-filled magma-chamber. It had a root-filling episode lasting from 1994 to 1998. Interestingly enough, just a short bit out towards Reykjaness you have Brennisteinsfjöll volcano that last erupted 1000AD.
        Hengill for your information is one of the 5 volcanos in Iceland able to produce eruptions with more and 10 cubic kilometres of lava. And that lava is very rich in sulphuric, CO2 and fluorine gasses. Think Laki next door to Reykjavik.

        IDDP2 started drilling 2010 at Hengill volcano. The project is meant to see if it is possible to store CO2 by supercritical injection into deep boreholes in Hengill, while at the same time running a dry steam hydrothermal powerplant.

        Project Carb-fix

      3. And IDDP2 is to be done south of Skíðaskáli, note the area they are going to use, the area most likely to produce 6R quakes.

  6. I think I’ll dream about steam and all that tonight.

    But I’ll also go to bed now. Have a quiet night everybody – esp. also in Iceland and in the Canaries …

    1. hmmm counting sheeps…

      1. sheep
      2. sheep
      3. sheeps
      50. hmm thats sheepish
      99. damn sheeps
      140. what else, a sheep
      230. mäehh, wuff!
      233. hmm, what a strange sheep
      that doesn’t work, lets count wolfes!

    1. Carl: Is there a new name for the new island? I was already having a hard time with the former one, now I must try to learn “Eldfjallþessierþekktursem”? (The “Bob” part I know by now.)
      Have a good night you all Europeans. I’ll be awake yet for a while, for the evening shift.

      1. According to Giggle:

        Eldfjall = Volcano
        þes = of/the
        sier = sierra
        þekkt = known (said knowledge too)
        and the last bit it has no idea.

        Volcano of sierra known as Bob

        But it suggested a spelling suggestion:

        Eldfjall þessi er þekktur sem bob
        A volcano that is known as a bob

        I’m trying to learn Norwegian and I thought that was hard. Did anyone ever see the programme about the savant who learnt Icelandic in one week?

      2. It is really “A volcano that is known as Bob”.

        Renato, EldfjallþessierþekktursemBob just flows off the though like a honey-dew kiss ontop of Vatnajökull in Iceland 🙂

      3. 1000 years ago Icelanders and Norwegians spoke the same language, Old Norse.
        Since then the Norwegian has evolved and changed but Icelandic stayed the same.
        The settlers came from Norway, so i suppose Iceland is like a piece of Norway frozen in time.
        Things changed very slowly in Iceland, that is until the bankers sacked the place and left it in ruins.

        There was a meeting last year where the Icelandic energy industry was being discussed.
        The majority of people who attended were bankers. It was a bit odd to look over this group of bankers from failed banks, looking at the Energy sector like vultures, looking for ways to kill it in order to feed of the corpse.

        This IDDP project can be great, if its tested and developed over a very long period of time.
        It can also cause irreparable damage, to Iceland, Icelanders and to Green energy if its moved ahead at to much speed.

        I think it might be a good idea to stop all deep drilling in Iceland now and see collect information on what has already been done over the next 10 years or so, then continue if that seems to be the smart thing to do.

      4. I too am learning Norwegian……I thought I was doing well on line ….
        Until my grandson came over to visit with Mum and Dad….
        Grandson looked blankly at me….
        Daughter in law said I was learning the wrong sort of Norwegian!

        I think Icelandic would be better . Only one sort and after all it is really Old Norwegian. But I have trouble with the “ll” sound 🙁

  7. Ólafur Arnalds (a rather good) Icelandic musician said this on Twitter earlier:
    in iceland there have been a lot of human made earth quakes, up to 4 points on the richter scale, due to some water drilling… there is just something so wrong about the fact that humans can create earthquakes.

  8. That tunnel.
    Maybe the safest place on this island for a 18 wheel 30 ton LPG truck.
    The alternative is to drive 30 km extra, over a narrow mountain road with lots of hairpin bends and high rock avalanche risk.

  9. Still about Hierro:
    “Increase in the tremor frequencies between 2 and 6 Hz are similar to those when a new vent was opened. Most likely place to this occurrence would be the “cala Tacorón” zone, where subterranean sounds have been heard and where tremors were more strongly felt.
    “Cala Tacorón, stays less then 1 km from the coast, but for the moment”, according to Enrique from AVCAN, “this is only a hypothesis”.

      1. Scanned all around La Restinga but you’ve lost me – what are we looking for ? Photo ? You starting Mystery Tours ? 🙂

      2. I see a huge sign with the name, and a picture under a name-marker.

        I turned to south to see what you where talking about, the island looks cute upside down.

      3. I suppose whichever way you look at it – it’s impressive !…and at this point – I’m off to my bed !

    1. Just stay nice and talk like adults. Carl has some new friends around the globe, and we will help him grill you with his hat and some sheep if you’re not polite. 🙂

    1. Excellent.
      But there is gap in the table of EQs on the 9th which corresponds to the large jump in the accumulated seismic energy plot. These EQS presumably trended up from ca 10km to near-surface near the activity at La Restinga. Do you have nan idea where those data have gone – have they been removed, or were they never presented?

      1. They aren’t in the list.

        If you have them let me know, I can put them in… with a separate symbol so we know them for who they are.

  10. First Coffee Report. Good morning Jon et Al.
    Today we have fierce weather. Gales and torrential Rain. I shall not be digging in my garden!
    @ Lurking. Another good Plot. Still deep quakes North /South ish aren’t there?. I think magma still filling the reservoir although tremors have become smaller this morning.

    Askja area still grumbling but weather messing up tremor graphs again.
    I have nothing of more interest to say so I will go downstairs for Coffee # 2 then get down to some work on PC . I shall try not to get side tracked here!

    1. Aah, Diana and her coffee. Good morning.

      Askja and Katla
      dancing together
      who in the world
      has seen something better
      El Loco comes right with the answer
      Soap and Diana
      under “tha showa” (had to be for the rhyme)
      and later hot coffee

      Erm, well, I shall stop here – at least for now. Heavy day ahead. No volcanoes under my wings – but where topography isn’t flat, rocks will fall and land will slide…
      with warm thermal panty

      1. sh… nasty iPhone writing. Messed up with the last lines…

        under “tha showa” (had to be for the rhyme)
        and later hot coffee
        with warm thermal panty

        Grrrrrrrr! 🙂

      2. Tor ! It is called Poetic License. I think he really means Hot coffee and warm croissants. ( Diana is trying to keep Tor’s innocence intact)

    2. I am very curious about what Askja is doing.
      It is a new behavious entirely we are seeing now.
      Earlier it was quiet uplift at Askja, and heavy quake swarms over at Herdubreid. Prof. Rymer had data on magma-filling over at a dyke trending to Herdubreid and central Chamber filling.
      Now we have quaking at the 1874 pre-eruptions site in Lokatindur and quaking centering in on the main caldera. Still a few years away, but I think she is doing a Katla on us and have started to clock towards eruption. I wish Prof. Rymer publishes soon again about Askja.
      And I also hope that the GPS:s for the Askja caldera would be made online, preferably complete with an Askjavöktun.

  11. Regarding EldfjallþessierþekktursemBob over at El Hierro. Whatever it was that happened yesterday it seems it changed something rather well. Not the tremoring is falling, and fairly quickly at that. I interpret that as a lowering of the pressure level in EldfjallþessierþekktursemBobs various vents. I guess a new vent opened up and that the magma now is travelling at either a slower pace, or a shorter distance. It could be that the vent closest to the shore upened up more, and the other vents lost pressure entirely and has shut down.
    I in a way hope that EldfjallþessierþekktursemBob don’t go silent on us now. First of all a new island formation is always cool, and secondly, if that happens I think it will only be a question of time before a new vent opens online, and that would be a bother for the inhabitants.

    1. Well, I guess that yesterday after the new vent of EldakturBob (this is the only way my brain recognise all that nordic alphabet mixture) has throw its magma due to the water contact will have a 24 hours cork.
      The champagne isn’t over yet. 😀
      Regarding the Grf station I consider it strange and more than that I see a magma harmonic tremor. But I’m not an expert.

  12. Well, figures for the Askja inflation:
    Since the inflation phase started in 2007 114 million tons of magma counted in linear (Rymer) and with GPS predictability curve 200 million tons at todays date.
    That is only the known inflation inside the Caldera.
    Together with the inflation at Herdubreid we have 300 million tons of new magma. I don’t think that is enough for such a huge volcano. Remember that the magma-reservoir is flipping huge at this volcano, and that 300 million tons is a smaller volume by a 100 times comared to the subduction after 1875-75 eruption(s).
    But she is definitly cooking something.

    1. At Rho ~3 ton/cu m 300 million tons is roughly 100 million cu m or 0,1 cu km which if it all erupted at once would be VEI 4. Just. At this rate – roughly 0.015 cu km per year – and assuming that Askja won’t erupt until it’s got enough magma for a VEI 5, we’re some 60 – 75 years from an eruption.

      Lies – damned lies – statistics

  13. Now it is time to go and do something usefull or useless depending on how one sees it. Time for work.
    So I will leave you with little EldfjallþessierþekktursemBob.

    For some reason I cannot get it out of my head that Hekla is going to be funny today. I do not have any reason for believing so more than the normal “she is overdue”. Irritating feeling 🙂

  14. mmmmmm!
    2011-10-18 06:22:26,3 64,774 -17,322 6,1 1,7 54,41 5,4 km V af Kistufelli
    2011-10-18 06:21:06,5 64,775 -17,286 3,1 2,7 90,05 3,7 km V af Kistufelli

      1. Armand,
        The List of Earthquakes provided by IGN has a gap on 9th Oct – hundreds of EQs are missing. You can see the gap on the accumulated energy plot. Why are the data not given us? This is the seismic activity that immediately preceeded the eruptive activity so its important I think to know what the pattern was.

      2. Have seen that too very strange – also the deformation graphics are mostly having bad links. I don not think that they want to hide something – it looks rather to be chaotic over there.

    1. 50 million cubic metres of magma. Eyjafyatlajokull erupted about 70=80 million cubic metres of magma. (Different type of eruption than C anries though)

      The GPS plot for Restinga vs. Frontera H103 is showing no statistically significant deflation having been flat for two weeks. When the error bars separate we can talk deflation:
      (Note this is lateral motion. The Nagoya site records vertical but may not have been updated ( and the decimal year date scale is not interpretable accurately by us.)

      1. Go to ‘Tjornes fracture zone small’, click on ‘table’ – they are all rather deep.

    1. There are more….
      Due to the fact that there is sea and sheeps do not swim I speculate also a new island pregnancy bump 😀

  15. Please note that all links to godlikeproductions are regarded as spam. It is regardless of where they link point to or what they actually contains.

      1. Well, SPAM aside, they also do some rather funky coding with the links they uses.

        Anytime a site rewrites a link in something other than HTML, don’t trust them.

        (hello Google, that’s you also)

    1. Have these guys and girls on a daily basis too + a number of other fearmongers – but i try to erase them too – they have enough platforms to express their ideas (btw they are very popular on the web).

  16. @Sissel, I moved one of your comment to the trash, as it was breaking the comment continues line, due the fact it was a sub-comment of a deleted comment.

    1. Suppose that was my warning to criseh about GLP. No need to keep it anymore. Please everybody, just ignore GLP. They have nothing to offer but rubbish.

  17. Jon and others Might find this interesting

    Nordic geological Winter meeting 2012
    From: “Armann Höskuldsson”
    Dear all I would like to draw your attention to the biannual Nordic Geological Winter meeting to be held in Iceland during the days 9-12 of January 2012.

  18. the rest of the info

    You are particularly invited to attend the following session on understanding volcanoes.

    Dealine fro abstract is 17th of October.

    Dr. Ármann Höskuldsson


    Nordic Volcanological Center,

    Institute of Earth Sciences,

    University of Iceland

    Sturlugata 7, 101 Reykjavik Iceland

    Ph +354-5254215

    Fax +354-5254499

    THEME 2: [UV] Understanding volcanoes

    Organizer: Ármann Höskuldsson

    [UV 1] Volcanoes in Iceland

    Conveners: Ármann Höskuldsson ( and Hannes Mattson (

    The session will focus on volcanism in Iceland and descriptions of individual eruptions. We welcome all contributions in relations to eruption dynamics focused to describe how eruptions in Iceland did behave from beginning to end. Further, statistical analyses of eruptions at different volcanoes in Iceland are welcomed.

    [UV 2] Ancient volcanism in Scandinavia

    Conveners: Kari Strand ( and Eirik Gjerlöw (

    This session provides the opportunity for contributions that fall within the broad spectrum of paleovolcanology, geochemistry and tectonic settings of ancient volcanic-sedimentary terrains in Scandinavia. We encourage abstract submissions on general documentation ancient volcanic products by their geochemical composition and physical characteristics. The processes in volcanic-sedimentary terrains are complex, and include volcanism, normal surface processes and tectonics, thus possible contributions related to facies architecture of ancient volcanic centres are most welcomed. Better understandings of ancient volcanic-sedimentary depositional environments have applications in mining exploration.

    [UV 3] Volcanism in the North Atlantic

    Conveners: Rolf B. Pedersen ( and Romain Meyer (

    A multidisciplinary examination of the North Atlantic volcanic role in plate tectonics and Earth’s internal dynamics has the potential to cast new light on the interrelation-ships between these processes.

    Continental breakup at the Paleocene-Eocene transition initiated the Northeast Atlantic. Early basin formation was not accompanied by significant volcanism, magmatic activity increased extensively around breakup time. We would like to address during this session observations from the volcanic events and magma evolution prior to and during continental separation (e.g. continental flood basalts, seaward dipping reflector sequences), and the post-breakup continuous activity

    (including Mid-Ocean ridges and Quaternary volcanic activity on Svalbard, Jan Mayen and Iceland). It is necessary to understand those local volcanic activities in detail to also understand the origin and function of the North Atlantic geology.

    Welcome are not only geochemical, volcanological and experimental data but also models regarding magma injections during rifting/drifting, mantle plumes and mantle heterogeneities, lithosphere rheology and inherited weaknesses.

    [UV 4] Magma plumbing system

    Conveners: Paul Martin Holm ( and Christian Tegner (

    The magma plumbing of volcanic systems involve highly dynamic migration of melts in conduits and chambers, crystallization, mixing, reaction with country rocks and the hydrosphere, and eruption, and is linked to plate tectonics and structure of the crust. These processes control the compositional and textural diversity of igneous rocks, the style of volcanic eruptions, the nature of hydrothermal systems, and the deposition of metallic ore bodies. Establishing the nature and origin of volcanic plumbing systems requires integration of geophysical, geochemical and petrological observations, experiments and models for extinct and active systems. This session therefore seeks contributions from a wide range of studies shedding light on sub-volcanic processes, including volcanic roots (sills, dykes, plutons and their aureoles), extrusive rocks, and monitoring of active volcanoes.

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