Accepted Paper:

Energy from magma: the emergence of a new 'science infrastructure'  


Alexandra Gormally (Lancaster University)

Paper Short Abstract:

This work considers a new speculative geological energy resource; energy (electricity) from magma. It considers the role of different geological knowledge, framings of risk and innovation and how this new energy frontier fits into existing socio-technical framings of what an energy system should be.

Paper long abstract:

This work considers the meeting of scientific, technical and local knowledge on a new speculative geological energy resource - that of energy (electricity) from magma (Elders et al., 2014). It considers how this emerging new energy frontier challenges our conceptualisation of (clean) energy production given it's potential for utilising powerful geothermal energy, at scale, from a renewable resource. A cutting edge and exploratory programme of research exploring this resource is currently underway at Krafla, a volcano in Northern Iceland, with a number of other possible sites emerging globally. It involves the collaboration of industry experts, the scientific community (notably volcanologists), and local and national policymakers. Krafla is now seen as a pioneer site for this emerging `science infrastructure` and subsequently named the Krafla Magma Testbed (KMT). The KMT project has global implications, giving us unprecedented engagement with magma and yet also providing huge uncertainties about the outcomes, findings and risks (Clark et al., 2017).

Here I will present the initial findings of an empirical scoping study carried out at Krafla, in May 2018. Themes explored include, the role of different geological knowledge (expert, local) and the framings of risk and responsible innovation. It also raises questions as to how energy from magma fits into our existing socio-technical framings of what a future energy system should be, and the implications of its emergence for future governance (Cherp et al., 2011).

Panel A07
Techno-scientific expertise and geographical imaginaries in the making of new resource frontiers