A potentially explosive well at a geothermal power station on Hawaii has been covered by lava from the erupting Kilauea volcano after it flowed onto the site.
Locals fear an explosion of deadly hydrogen sulphide and other gasses should the well be ruptured.
Lava has never engulfed a geothermal power plant anywhere in the world and the potential threat is untested, according to the head of the state’s emergency management agency.
However, both the covered well and another which is threatened by flowing lava “are stable and secure,” Hawaii’s Civil Defence Agency said.
David Ige, the governor of Hawaii, said the geothermal plant was “sufficiently safe” from the lava, which has burned dozens of homes.
The molten rock was expected to continue to flow across the Puna Geothermal Venture (PGV) facility, according to the US Geological Survey.
Authorities shut down the plant after Kilauea began a once-in-a-century scale eruption on 3 May.
They removed 60,000 gallons of flammable liquid and deactivated wells which tap into steam and gas deep in the Earth’s core.
Magma from Kilaueau’s summit lava lake has drained and flowed around 25 miles east of the volcano, bursting out of the ground through about two dozen giant cracks or fissures near the plant.
The Israeli-owned 38 megawatt plant typically provides around 25 per cent of electricity on the Big Island, according to local power utility Hawaii Electric Light.
Last week, Operator Ormat Technologies Inc 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.
Over the weekend, there were more than 250 earthquakes at Kilauea’s summit, with four explosions on Saturday sending ash as high as 12,000-15,000 feet, officials said.
US Marine Corps and National Guard helicopters are on standby for an air evacuation if fissure activity cuts off Highway 130, the last exit route for up to 1,000 coastal residents.
More residents in some sections of the Leilani Estates neighborhood were ordered to immediately evacuate shortly before 8pm on Sunday “due to a fast moving lava flow from Fissure 7”, a statement from the civil defense agency said.
Mr Americana, Overpasses News Desk
May 28th, 2018