US Senate committee hears from official from PGV parent company

U.S. Sen. Mazie Hirono, D-Hawaii

Ormat Technologies committed Thursday to continue its engagement with the Puna community and other Big Island stakeholders as the company proceeds to reopen Puna Geothermal Venture.

That assurance came from Paul Thomsen, Ormat Technologies vice president of business development, and was given during a U.S. Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee hearing that aimed to examine geothermal energy development.

Ormat owns PGV, which provided about 30% of the power on the island until lava from Kilauea volcano caused the plant close in May 2018, said committee member Sen. Mazie Hirono, D-Hawaii, during the hearing.

Lava destroyed a substation and covered a few geothermal wells, as well as cut off road access to the state’s only geothermal power plant, but it was otherwise spared significant damage in the eruption that began May 3, 2018, in lower Puna.

“As you proceed to reopen the plant, I’d like your commitment that your company will engage with the local community and other interested people on the Big Island to hear their views and concerns,” Hirono said.

Paul Thomsen

Thomsen told Hirono, “… you absolutely have my commitment to do that.”

“Ormat has been proud to operate that facility for some time,” he continued. “It’s a compelling story because we often talk about energy security, and it’s going to be an incredible success story to say that a geothermal facility surrounded by lava was able to weather the storm, (and) come back online. … Geothermal power plants are incredibly resilient.

“You have my full commitment, as we go through the repermitting process, as we build the new transmission lines, this is really going to be a story of rebirth.”

Thomsen thanked PGV leaders for working with the community “to bring the roads back, bring the power back up, and bring new life to the eastern Pahoa area.”

“… We are doing everything in our power to get that facility back up and operating, and frankly hope that the geologic activity that occurred will make those wells hotter, more productive, and maybe we’ll see a greater product out of the Puna Geothermal Venture moving forward.”

Prior to the eruption, Mike Kaleikini, senior director of Hawaii affairs for Ormat, said PGV had regular quarterly community meetings, “when we would share with folks in attendance what was going on at PGV,” as well as visit with nearby community associations.

PGV also met with the “regulatory side,” giving updates to the county, state and federal agencies that have regulatory oversight.

Mike Kaleikini

The company will now host community meetings more often.

“With the restart, we have agreed to have community meetings every other month, and more, if more work (is) going on,” Kaleikini said.

The first post-eruption meeting, discussing plans to regain ground access to the facility and updating residents on the requirements to use a road on PGV’s property to reach homes isolated by the lava flows, was in March and drew more than 100 people. The county and Hawaii Electric Light Co. also provided updates.

A second meeting was convened in mid-May and drew fewer residents.

The next community meeting is planned for mid-July, Kaleikini said, and will continue “every other month in the middle of the month until such time we have more activity that warrants more frequent meetings.”

As part of its community outreach and engagement efforts, Kaleikini said PGV has provided college scholarships to students from Pahoa High and Intermediate School, Kua O Ka La New Century Public Charter School and Hawaii Academy of Arts and Science, and supported local sports teams, educational activities and events.

Kaleikini said PGV and its employees are appreciative of the support they’ve received from the community and from Ormat for its commitment in keeping “everyone employed throughout the entire eruption.”

“Fortunately the eruption stopped when it did stop and allowed us to make plans to return to the facility, actually working on the facility, assessing equipment with the goal of returning back to operations by year end,” he said.

Permit applications for two new geothermal wells were resubmitted to the state Department of Land and Natural Resources and are under review, Kaleikini said.

The applications were filed April 4 and were reviewed and returned to PGV with comments earlier this month.

Kaleikini previously told the Tribune-Herald that the 38-megawatt geothermal power plant still is assessing wells that were covered by lava or plugged during the eruption, and described the applications for new wells as a contingency.

PGV is allowed to build as many as 28 wells under a plan of operation approved in 2006.

It currently has 11 wells — five for injection and six for production — that range in depths of 4,000 feet and 8,000 feet.

US Senate committee hears from official from PGV parent company
Saturday, June 22, 2019, By Stephanie Salmons, Hawaii Tribune-Herald
https://www.hawaiitribune-herald.com/2019/06/22/hawaii-news/us-senate-committee-hears-from-official-from-pgv-parent-company/

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Honour, Our Global Environmental Science Grad!

Honour Booth conducting research in a laboratory.

Our student Honour Booth!

As a teen, when Booth began surfing regularly on Oʻahu and her mother always reminded her to use sunscreen, she would argue that it contained chemicals that were detrimental to island waters. The question of just how much sunscreen actually goes into the environment remained with Booth into college. This question inspired her to develop her research project with Philip Williams, a UH Mānoa chemistry professor. Booth has attended conferences including the International Coral Reef Symposium. In addition, being selected as a Peter J. Rappa Sustainable Coastal Development Fellow led to her working with the city’s Office of Climate Change, Sustainability and Resiliency. This spring, she graduated with a bachelor of arts degree in chemistry.

“A scholarly focus on sustainability and stewardship”
June 10, 2019, UH News
https://www.hawaii.edu/news/2019/06/10/manoa-soest-ges-graduates/

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DLNR bounces wells application back to PGV

Applications for two new geothermal wells have been reviewed and returned to Puna Geothermal Venture with comments, the state Department of Land and Natural Resources confirmed this week.

The applications were filed April 4 and come as PGV, the state’s only geothermal power plant, moves to resume operations after being isolated by last year’s Kilauea eruption.

The permits require approval from DLNR Chairwoman Suzanne Case.

DLNR is awaiting the revised permit applications to be resubmitted, a department spokesman said.

Mike Kaleikini, PGV’s senior director of Hawaii affairs, said “… we’re working on our side to respond to the comments,” which were “primarily procedural” in nature.

Response to DLNR should be provided within a couple of days or a week, he said.

Kaleikini recently told the Tribune-Herald that the 38-megawatt geothermal power plant still is assessing wells that were covered by lava or plugged during the eruption.

He described the applications for new wells as a contingency.

“We’re committed, we’re definitely committed to returning back to operations before year-end,” he said Thursday.

PGV is allowed to build as many as 28 wells under a plan of operation approved in 2006.

It currently has 11 wells — five for injection and six for production — that range in depths of 4,000 feet and 8,000 feet.

The plant produced 31 percent of the island’s power and about half of its renewable energy in 2017, according to HELCO.

A DLNR spokesman said previously the department had 60 days to review the permit applications, which initially were filed March 1, were resubmitted April 4 after being deemed incomplete.

DLNR bounces wells application back to PGV
Monday, June 10, 2019, by Stephanie Salmons, Hawaii Tribune-Herald
https://www.hawaiitribune-herald.com/2019/06/10/hawaii-news/dlnr-bounces-wells-application-back-to-pgv/

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State study explores utility alternatives

Big Island Sen. Lorraine Inouye: “Was there any discussions regarding going forward if there’s a generation and distribution of geothermal resources (by) undersea cable?”

Sen. Inouye is a member of the Energy, Economic Development and Tourism Committee in the Hawaii State Senate.

State study explores utility alternatives
Thursday, June 6, 2019, by John Burnett, Hawaii Tribune-Herald
https://www.hawaiitribune-herald.com/2019/06/06/hawaii-news/state-study-explores-utility-alternatives/

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Congrats, Honour!

Honour setting up her rain bucket

Congratulations to Honour Booth! Our undergraduate research fellow graduated with a Bachelor of Science degree in Global Environmental Science and a Bachelor of Arts degree in Chemistry.

For the past two years, Honour has been collecting rain in the Ala Wai Watershed. Her research aims to characterize rainfall patterns over an elevation gradient using the isotopic ratios of oxygen and hydrogen in rain water. As rainfall patterns change due to climate change, it is important to know what rains will be responsible for recharging Hawaiʻi’s aquifers. Honour’s study is also used to determine whether a larger-scale study of this kind in the Pearl Harbor Watershed is feasible.

Honour collecting rain on a mountain

Honour will enroll in the master’s degree program in Urban and Regional Planning and will focus on sea-level-rise adaptation. Congrats, Honour!

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PGV eyes new wells

The state Department of Land and Natural Resources is reviewing applications for two new geothermal wells at Puna Geothermal Venture.

The applications were filed March 1, the department confirmed, and come as PGV moves to resume operations after being isolated by last year’s Kilauea eruption. The permits require approval from DLNR Chairwoman Suzanne Case.

Mike Kaleikini, PGV’s senior director of Hawaii affairs, said the 38-megawatt geothermal power plant still is assessing wells that were covered by lava or plugged during the eruption. He described the applications as a contingency.

“We’re still assessing the conditions of existing wells,” Kaleikini said.

“We just want to be prepared in the event for some reason we need a new well.”

He said DLNR has to approve reuse of existing wells and permits for new well construction. Permits for new wells would be good for one year.

PGV, which aims to restart operations by the end of the year, is allowed to build as many as 28 wells under a plan of operation approved in 2006. It currently has 11 wells — five for injection and six for production — that range in depths of 4,000 feet and 8,000 feet.

While a public hearing isn’t required for the permits, the state Public Utilities Commission is requiring PGV and Hawaii Electric Light Co. to hold a hearing regarding construction of new transmission lines.

A DLNR spokesman said the department has 60 days to review the permit applications, which were resubmitted April 4 after being deemed incomplete.

The plant produced 31 percent of the island’s power and about half of its renewable energy in 2017, according to HELCO. Critics of the state’s only geothermal power plant want to see more steps taken before it resumes operation or builds new wells.

They’ve also questioned whether the plant is needed as two 30-megawatt solar-plus-battery projects are planned for West Hawaii. Utility officials have said they still need geothermal to meet renewable energy goals and because it’s a firm power source.

Bob Petricci, president of Puna Pono Alliance, which is critical of geothermal development, said an environmental impact statement should be done before PGV restarts or builds new wells. He said the group, which also is seeking a contested case hearing for renewal of the plant’s air permit, plans to file a lawsuit regarding that issue.

“We do have concerns,” Petricci said. “It relates to rushing back into an unknown reality with their history in particular. You know the geology is different, the resource has changed. It’s hotter, it’s more fluid.”

He said caution is needed even if there are far fewer homes nearby because of the eruption.

Among their concerns, critics cite PGV’s well blowout in 1991 that caused uncontrolled venting for 31 hours.

The last gas release was in 2014 when the plant’s transmission lines were severed during Tropical Storm Iselle, prompting it to shut down.

PGV maintains gas amounts during that release were small, about 100 pounds of hydrogen sulfide, and that employees on site suffered no ill effects, though some nearby residents who were unable to leave at the time claim they were impacted.

In comparison, sulfur dioxide emissions from Kilauea climbed to more than 50,000 metric tons per day during the eruption.

Critics say more monitoring is needed to know how much gas is released by PGV during those events.

While assessments of the wells are ongoing, Kaleikini referred to the progress as “promising.”

“The rigs are set up removing the plugs as we speak,” he said.

Some of the fissures erupted on the edge of PGV’s property.

Kaleikini said that may lead to more underground heat, but he doesn’t think they are at risk of tapping into the magma dike based on the location of the fissures.

PGV encountered a pocket of magma while drilling in 2005. Kaleikini said the molten rock, left from past eruptions, solidified in the hole.

“It’s not like you have a big gusher,” he said.

Assessments of existing wells have shown the geothermal resource is about 50 degrees hotter than it was before the eruption, Kaleikini said, but still cooler than when PGV began operations nearly 30 years ago.

Puna Pono Alliance’s demand for an EIS will include a request many might find controversial.

In addition to assessing impacts the eruption might have had on PGV, Petricci said the group wants it to also determine whether PGV impacted the eruption itself.

He said he doesn’t think it caused the eruption but that it might have had something to do with its intensity.

“I’m not saying that’s what happened,” Petricci said, adding that, “If you look at the line of fissures right along the line of PGV’s boundary,” that raises questions.

The Hawaiian Volcano Observatory debunked claims from some geothermal opponents that PGV could somehow have caused the eruption in a “Volcano Watch” article in April. It said there is no credible model that connects geothermal operations to the eruption, noting the migration of magma started miles away at Pu‘u ‘O‘o.

“Impacts of the LERZ eruption were devastating, but the reason for the lava flow is no simpler than the fact that we live on an active volcanic island,” HVO said. “What happened in 2018 is part of Kilauea’s natural process and was not influenced by human actions.”

But even that statement hasn’t put the issue to bed.

State Sen. Russell Ruderman raised similar comments and questions as Petricci during a discussion regarding the future of the plant last month on PBS Hawaii.

“Are we going to move forward before answering the question: Did this activity contribute at all to the nature and intensity of last year’s eruption?” Ruderman, D-Puna, Ka‘u, said on the program. He noted he doesn’t think PGV caused the eruption but thinks it might have had an impact.

Kaleikini, who participated in the discussion, said he thought Ruderman’s question was absurd. He attributed it to misunderstanding of PGV’s process.

“We know our process,” he said. “For people not to do their homework, to really find out how the process really works in PGV, and to be able to make statements out there … to me that’s irresponsible. That’s borderline fear-mongering.”

In an email, Ruderman said it would be “unscientific” to dismiss these claims without investigating them. He said he hasn’t talked to HVO about his concerns but is creating a “summary for state agencies to urge them to look anew at the changed situation.”

PGV is located on Kilauea’s lower East Rift Zone, and the line of 24 fissures from Leilani Estates to upper Kapoho was not unprecedented in recent history, according to HVO.

“In 1955, Kilauea Volcano erupted in the lower Puna district on the Island of Hawaii for 88 days,” Janet Babb, HVO spokeswoman and geologist said in an email. “The outbreak began on February 28, and was the first eruption in an inhabited area on Kilauea since 1840. During the eruption, at least 24 separate volcanic vents opened up and down the volcano’s East Rift Zone, with lava flows covering about 3,900 acres of land.”

That was followed by another lower East Rift Zone eruption in 1960 that destroyed the village of Kapoho. PGV began operations in the early 1990s.

Babb added that the 1840 eruption that migrated to the East Rift Zone was of similar intensity.

“The lava that erupted in 1840 from the lowest fissure at Kaohe Homesteads advanced to the ocean (distance of 9 miles) in 3 days, through what is now Nanawale Estates,” she said. “By comparison, the 2018 fissure 8 lava advanced to the ocean (distance of 8 miles) in more than a week. The 1840 eruption lasted for about 30 days while the 2018 eruption was most active for 3 months.”

While acknowledging the rift zone is inherently unstable, Petricci said he thinks that PGV reinjecting the condensed steam into the ground through injection wells could have weakened the rock and aided the flow of magma, and compared it to the impacts of hydraulic fracturing, or fracking, on earthquakes.

“I don’t think that’s a conspiracy theory,” he said. “If you look at the science, it’s a science question.”

Kaleikini said PGV doesn’t do fracking.

“We drill and we look for naturally permeable zones,” he said.

HVO officials have not noted any correlation between PGV and seismic activity during the plant’s history.

As additional questions are being raised, Tina Neal, HVO scientist-in-charge, said in an email that geologists are “reviewing and preparing a summary of observations regarding questions about PGV and the 2018 eruption.”

PGV eyes new wells
By Tom Callis, June 2, 2019, Hawaii Tribune-Herald

PGV eyes new wells

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Wooden poles at PGV smoldering

Four wooden poles installed on Puna Geothermal Venture’s property were found to be smoldering because of heat from the lava flow they cross.

Hawaii Electric Light Co. told the state Public Utilities Commission in a letter Monday that the poles need to be replaced with steel versions.

That was in response to a PUC letter notifying HELCO and PGV that the re-installation of transmission lines to the plant, surrounded by lava from last year’s Kilauea eruption, requires a public hearing.

HELCO said it considers replacing the poles to be an emergency safety concern.

In response to the PUC letter, HELCO said it ceased work on the transmission lines.

Wooden poles at PGV smoldering
May 23, 2019, Hawaii Tribune-Herald

Wooden poles at PGV smoldering

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HELCO Says New Poles On PGV Property Began Smoldering

As the Hawaii Electric Light Company prepares for a public hearing on a transmission line rebuild for Puna Geothermal Venture, four wooden poles recently installed on the property will have to be removed after they started to smolder from residual underground heat.

Puna Geothermal Venture is working to bring the power plant back online following the 2018 eruption of Kīlauea Volcano on the lower East Rift Zone. Lava partially inundated PGV facility, cut access, and forced the company to shut down the operation.

The eruption ended in September 2018, and in the months following, Puna Geothermal Venture has been moving ahead with a recovery plan. The Ormat-owned power company has entered into an agreement to rebuild with HELCO. The agreement included the rebuild of a transmission line to and from the geothermal power plant.

On May 9, the Hawaiʻi Public Utilities Commission notified HELCO in a letter “that an overhead line proceeding and public hearing are required,” before moving forward with the connection.

HELCO responded to the PUC in a May 20 letter, saying:

Prior to receiving the [May 9] Letter, to restore electric service to PGV, Hawai‘i Electric Light installed 13 wooden poles that are currently being used to provide 12 kilovolt distribution service to PGV. The poles, which are sized to also carry transmission lines above the distribution lines, vary in height from approximately 60 to 65 feet above the ground. Both transmission line and distribution line conductors have been installed on the poles. The Company tied the new transmission lines to its 6500 line on May 8, 2019. However, none of the new transmission lines were energized.

As a result of the Commission’s directives, Hawai‘i Electric Light immediately ceased work on the transmission lines, disconnected the newly installed wires from the 6500 line, and removed the transmission conductors from the poles that are outside PGV’s property. However, the Company has since discovered that four of the new wooden poles – all on PGV’s property – need to be immediately replaced with steel poles, due to residual underground heat causing the wood poles to smolder. The impacts of the residual heat can be fully mitigated with the use of steel poles. The Company considers this to be an emergency safety concern that must be and is being addressed in advance of filing its forthcoming application for Commission approval pursuant to Sections 269-27.5 and -27.6 of the Hawai‘i Revised Statutes.

Once the four steel replacement poles are installed, the conductors will be transferred over, and the four wooden poles will be removed. PGV will pay for the entire cost of the existing line and replacement poles. Distribution line (i.e., less than 46 kV) work is continuing to tie in service to the PGV facility, also at PGV’s expense.

HELCO also informed the PUC of its recent community outreach efforts in regards to the transmission line project. HELCO says it visited the two customers that reside near the transmission line project, and “both customers were supportive of the Company’s efforts and did not have concerns regarding the project.” HELCO also noted its participation in a May 17 community meeting in Pāhoa hosted by PGV.

HELCO says it will file an application consistent with the PUC’s instructions in June 2019.

HELCO Says New Poles On PGV Property Began Smoldering
May 21, 2019, Big Island Video News
https://www.bigislandvideonews.com/2019/05/21/helco-says-new-poles-on-pgv-property-began-smoldering/

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A year after Kilauea Volcano eruption, power poles at Puna geothermal plant are still ‘smoldering’

Four wooden power poles installed by Hawaii Electric Light Co. several weeks ago along a new road opened by the Puna Geothermal Venture are “smoldering” due to residual heat from last year’s Kilauea Volcano eruption.

Three of PGV’s wells were covered by lava during the eruption, and current ground temperatures in some areas of the eruption have measured as high as 350 to 400 degrees Fahrenheit.

HELCO plans to replace the smoldering poles in the coming week with specially insulated steel poles that are better able to withstand the heat, according to a utility spokesman.

In a letter Monday to the Public Utilities Commission, Joseph Viola, Hawaiian Electric Co. vice president for regulatory affairs, said HELCO installed 13 power poles, 60 to 65 feet tall, and electrical lines that would restore power to PGV and supply power to HELCO’s grid.

HELCO’s immediate plan was to restore power to PGV and about 30 neighboring homes that survived the eruption. The company has crews working at the geothermal plant in an effort to resume power generation by the end of this year.

However, the PUC advised HELCO in a letter earlier this month that it needed commission approval to rebuild those power lines because they will follow a new alignment along a road PGV has opened to restore access to the plant.

Viola said HELCO had already installed the 13 power poles, transmission lines, distribution lines and other equipment before it received that letter from the PUC. The lines have not been energized, and HELCO stopped work on the lines immediately after receiving the PUC letter, according to Viola.

In the meantime, HELCO discovered the “emergency safety concern” that is the smoldering new poles, and told the commission it needs to fix that problem immediately.

Jim Kelly, Hawaiian Electric Co.’s vice president for corporate relations, said the overheating poles will be replaced by new steel poles that will be 70 to 75 feet tall and treated with special thermal paint. Each pole will also be wrapped with insulation and surrounded by a special thermal backfill to help dissipate heat.

“We learned some things from the rebuilding work we did after the 2014 lava flow in Pahoa that we’ll put to use on this project,” Kelly said. That 2014 flow also damaged utility lines and almost reached the main road through Pahoa village before stopping.

Kelly said the utility hopes to have service restored to PGV and its neighbors in the next two to three months.

PGV has uncovered one of the three wells that was buried by lava, and hopes to use existing wells to restart the plant. The company says its generating equipment at the plant is intact, but PGV needs to reconstruct three air quality monitoring stations.

The PGV plant has a contract to provide up to 38 megawatts of power to HELCO. When it shut down because of the eruption, that amounted to 29% of the entire power generation on Hawaii island.

A year after Kilauea Volcano eruption, power poles at Puna geothermal plant are still ‘smoldering’
May 22, 2019, By Kevin Dayton, Honolulu Star-Advertiser
https://www.staradvertiser.com/2019/05/22/hawaii-news/power-poles-at-puna-geothermal-plant-are-smoldering/?HSA=940d833d4d5467ee9064645048f24866922bbd9d

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Puna Geothermal Venture Updates Community

The Puna community gathered at the Pāhoa Community center on Friday evening for an update on the planned return of geothermal power operations in the area impacted by the 2018 eruption of Kīlauea Volcano.

Puna Geothermal venture organized the public meeting, and was joined by officials from the Hawaiʻi Electric Light officials and the County of Hawaiʻi. About 20 members of the public were present.

Jordan Hara, PGV plant manager, said that due to the corrosion issues, they have a big job rebuilding generators and everything at the plant. “We probably average of about 40 to 50 contractors on site giving us an hand, from all over the United States. plus we’ve got also hands from our other plants on the mainland helping us out.”

“We’re still assessing the wells and also the resource,” Hara said. “We got bunch of our equipment on site, so that’s ongoing currently. We did start assessing on KS-14 and then we’ll be moving over to the next well.”

Hara talked about the April 1st opening of Pioneer Road to residents of the Halekamahina kipuka, noting that the company has experienced some pros and cons on the road access.

After things went well for a week, Hara said PGV opened up the hours to 22 out of 24 hours, and the next day had “a guy sneaking in a guy in the trunk of his car,” and some people “swearing and yelling at our security.”

“When we do have incidents like that we will cancel waivers” to use the road, Hara said.

HELCO representative Kevin Waltjen talked about the Rebuild Agreement the utility has with PGV, and the recent Public Utilities Commission letter saying that public hearings will be necessary on transmission lines being installed for the facility.

“What that does is it establishes a line that allows us to connect to and bring service down to the customers that got access to that area,” Waltjen said. “And that’s important.”

Diane Ley, the director of Research and Development for Hawaiʻi County who is leading the community outreach effort on the Kīlauea eruption recovery, gave an update, noting that “we’re seeing resources start to flow to the county.”

“This week in the news was a big announcement from our congressional delegation,” Ley said. “About $66.8 million dollars coming down to the state of Hawaiʻi. Number one, that money is not all going to come to Hawaiʻi (Island). Some of it was is designated by Congress to go to Kauaʻi and Oʻahu for the flooding and landslide events there. It does not include Hurricane Lane, so that’s off the table for this disaster. There may be other appropriations that support that. This appropriation, we don’t know the details, yet. We’re waiting for a Federal Register notice to come out. But when it does, it’ll give more guidance as to what areas these resources can go to, and that can include rebuilding homes. And we don’t know if that means actual construction of homes or just infrastructure to support homes. It can help to rebuild infrastructure: lost roads, parks, water lines. It can support affected businesses, in terms of adjusting job losses impacts to tax revenues, job training, workforce development, and maybe even some loans and grants. We’ll see.”

The use of the funds will require an action plan that will need to be submitted to federal government for approval, Ley said.

Ley also noted that work continues on a risk assessment and vulnerability analysis. “We expected that to be out already, but it’s still taking some time,” ley said. “We’ve got great resource people that have the technical skills and and the scientific background put that together.”

VIDEO: Puna Geothermal Venture Updates Community
May 18, 2019, by Big Island Video News
http://www.bigislandvideonews.com/2019/05/18/video-puna-geothermal-venture-updates-community-2/

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PGV talks with HELCO are ongoing

As Puna Geothermal Venture moves toward restarting following last year’s Kilauea eruption, a new power purchase agreement with Hawaii Electric Light Co. might be on the table.

Mike Kaleikini, senior director of Hawaii affairs for Ormat, PGV’s parent company, said talks are ongoing with HELCO, and revolve around delinking the cost of power from the price of oil. During peak hours, the first 25 megawatts PGV sells to HELCO is tied to that cost.

Essentially, that pays PGV, which had a capacity of 38 mgw, for reducing the amount of oil the utility uses to generate power.

But it also can lead to higher costs for customers.

Kaleikini said PGV is interested in delinking the cost of power from oil to provide more certainty about its revenue.

He said the parties entered those talks before the eruption started.

PGV, the state’s only geothermal power plant, went offline after the start of the eruption May 3, 2018. The eruption isolated the plant and destroyed a substation.

It built a “pioneer road” over the hardened lava channel to reach the plant, which has been available since April 1 to residents whose homes were isolated off Highway 132.

In a May 9 letter, the Public Utilities Commission told HELCO a public hearing will be required for restoration of transmission lines to the plant. The PUC also is encouraging the parties to renegotiate the power purchase agreement to lower costs.

PGV and HELCO officials said they entered into the talks voluntarily.

A hearing is not required for service lines HELCO is providing to PGV, said Kevin Waltjen, HELCO’s Hawaii Island director.

After that’s installed, he said the service line can be extended to the Highway 132 kipuka, which could take a few more months.

Jordan Hara, PGV plant manager, said during a public meeting Friday evening in Pahoa that PGV is paying for the service line to its plant.

Waltjen said the cost of extending the lines to the kipuka will be absorbed by the utility.

Kaleikini said PGV is still targeting to be operational by the end of the year, assuming regulatory hurdles are cleared by then.

He said the plant continues to assess wells that were quenched or covered during the disaster.

Kaleikini said that doesn’t require new permits, though there are notification requirements for the state Department of Land and Natural Resources and state Department of Health.

It’s possible PGV will need to construct new wells. However, he stated PGV would not need new permits from DLNR, since it previously received approval to construct as many as 28.

PGV talks with HELCO are ongoing
May 18, 2019, By Tom Callis, Hawaii Tribune-Herald
https://www.hawaiitribune-herald.com/2019/05/18/hawaii-news/pgv-talks-with-helco-are-ongoing/

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PUC to HELCO: Work to restore power to PGV requires approval, public hearing

Hawaii Electric Light Co.’s agreement with Puna Geothermal Venture to rebuild power transmission lines and related infrastructure will require state Public Utilities Commission approval and a public hearing.

That’s according to a May 9 letter from the PUC to Kevin Katsura, HELCO’s director of regulatory nonrate proceedings, in response to the Big Island power utility’s rebuild agreement with the geothermal power plant, which was filed March 8 with the regulatory panel.

The agreement specifies PGV will pay HELCO $2.348 million to cover design, procurement and HELCO’s portion of the Pohoiki switching station and related transmission and distribution line repairs to reconnect PGV to HELCO’s grid. That includes reconstruction of two 69-kilovolt transmission lines, one approximately a mile long and another about a mile-and-a-half long.

The PGV facility was partially overrun and some of its infrastructure destroyed by lava last year during the lower East Rift Zone eruption of Kilauea volcano.

The PUC’s letter said that despite HELCO’s plans to reconstruct the lines “in the same general area of the old lines,” the law requires commission approval “to place, construct, erect, or otherwise build” the lines.

The commission also quoted a statute requiring a public hearing prior to approval of plans “to place, construct, erect, or otherwise build a new 46 kilovolt or greater high-voltage electric transmission system above the surface of the ground through any residential area … .”

The March 8 letter from HELCO to the PUC stated there are two homes within 400 to 500 feet of where the transmission lines are to be constructed.

“This proximity to residences means a public hearing is necessary,” the PUC’s letter said.

The commission also provided HELCO with additional feedback related to its ongoing negotiations with PGV regarding a possible amended and restated power purchase agreement, and requested additional status reporting.

The letter said the commission “is not taking a position on whether PGV will, in fact, come back online, but rather is stating that if PGV does come back online, it should be under circumstances that take advantage of this opportunity to benefit HELCO ratepayers by lowering the costs of” electricity.

“We’re keeping the Public Utilities Commission informed and will follow the direction we’re given by the commission,” HELCO spokeswoman Kristen Okinaka said in an email Tuesday.

Earlier this month, Okinaka told the Tribune-Herald HELCO and PGV are working to restore the geothermal power plant to operational capacity by the end of the year.

“We aren’t anticipating any delay — we plan to stay within the timeline set by PGV for coming back online,” Okinaka said. “Under the rebuild agreement, costs related to the reconstruction of the transmission lines are covered by PGV.”

“Like you, we’ve just gotten that letter, actually, a copy of (PUC’s) letter. It was just to HELCO,” said Mike Kaleikini, PGV’s senior director of Hawaii affairs. “We haven’t determined whether this affects our timeline or not. But that’s what we’re looking at. We’re working closely with HELCO.”

State Sen. Russell Ruderman, D-Puna, Ka‘u, said there are “a lot of concerns in my mind and in the community about whether they ought to restart or not.”

“I think it’s great that they’re having a public hearing, and I think it’s important to consider each step along the way in their restart. I don’t think their restart is a done deal or automatically a good idea, like they’re presenting it,” Ruderman said.

“Big Island ratepayers will be paying a lot more if they come back online than if they don’t. That has to be considered,” Ruderman said. “I think their track record of safety and lack of safety has to be considered. I think that the big elephant in the room is: Should we be putting important, expensive, critical infrastructure in a location such as this? Are we going to bank our future on this? Are we going to depend on it?

“We saw what can happen there, and there’s no reason it won’t happen again in the next few years.”

PUC to HELCO: Work to restore power to PGV requires approval, public hearing
May 15, 2019, By John Burnett, Hawaii Tribune-Herald
https://www.westhawaiitoday.com/2019/05/15/hawaii-news/puc-to-helco-work-to-restore-power-to-pgv-requires-approval-public-hearing/

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Rebuilding Puna Geothermal Venture

Ormat Technologies Inc., the parent company of Puna Geothermal Venture (PGV), which has been out of service since May of 2018 due to Kīlauea’s eruptions in the area, is in the works to rebuild. Considering PGV used to provide nearly one-quarter of Big Island’s electricity, the State of Hawai‘i and Hawai‘i Electric Light Company have committed to help in the endeavor. Recently, PGV has completed the access road to the site and mobilized workover rigs from the mainland. They have also completed drilling for a new freshwater well. However, they still need service power lines in order to test the company’s equipment. The power plant expects to be up and running again by the end of 2019.

Building Projects Stretch Across Big Island
May 11, 2019, By Sierra Hägg, Big Island Now
http://bigislandnow.com/2019/05/11/building-projects-stretch-across-big-island/

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Puna Geothermal Resource is Warmer Than Before

Ormat Technologies Inc (ORA) Q1 2019 Earnings Call Transcript (Motley Fool)

Isaac Angel — Chief Executive Officer. “We continue to make progress in the efforts to bring the plant back online with the target of resuming operation by the end of the year. We are currently removing the plugs from the production wells and mobilizing large rig to the island to help with the drilling of additional wells and fixing existing wells if required, and we are progressing with the building of the electrical substation. As a vertically integrated company, we have the unique advantage of controlling the entire value chain of geothermal development. This will help us bring Puna on lime.”

“The injections were not flat in the first place and they are operational and out of the production well. When the power plant became in-operational, there were, if I recall right between three to four production wells, providing 38 megawatts with two of them providing the majority of the flow, and those are the wells that we are unplugging right now and very, very soon we will know how this is progressing. One thing we know for sure — again for sure is an estimation that resource as it is, is warmer than it was before and it is there because we are monitoring the injection wells all the time. Now we have to unplug those three or four wells, it will take us some time, but we are optimistic as I said before that we will be — as we are working in parallel, we will be operational by the end of this year.”

Puna Geothermal Resource is Warmer Than Before – Ormat CEO
May 7, 2019, Global Geothermal News, Geothermal Resources Council
https://geothermalresourcescouncil.blogspot.com/2019/05/usa-nevada-geothermal_7.html

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Ormat Revenue Increases Despite Puna Geothermal Venture Shutdown

Ormat Technologies Reports First Quarter 2019 Financial Results (News Release)

Ormat Technologies, Inc. today announced financial results for the first quarter ended March 31, 2019.

  • Total revenues of $199.0 million, up 8.2% compared to the first quarter of 2018 despite the volcano-related shutdown of Ormat’s Puna power plant in Hawaii;
  • Electricity segment revenues of $142.9 million, up 7.9% compared to Q1 2018, as the growth resulting from recently expanded operations at McGuinness Hills and Olkaria, as well as contributions from recently acquired US Geothermal (USG), combined to mitigate the loss of revenues resulting from the temporary shutdown of the Puna power plant;
“Ormat delivered another strong quarter, with continued growth across our diversified portfolio of operations helping us to overcome the loss of revenue and profit resulting from the temporary shutdown of our Puna power plant in Hawaii,” commented Isaac Angel, Chief Executive Officer.
“Our Electricity segment revenue grew 7.9% and generation increased 11.0% in Q1 2019 vs Q1 2018, reflecting the contribution of new and expanded power plants as well as the continuing growth resulting from our recent USG acquisition.”

Ormat Revenue Increases Despite Puna Geothermal Venture Shutdown
Global Geothermal News, Geothermal Resources Council
https://geothermalresourcescouncil.blogspot.com/2019/05/usa-nevada-geothermal.html

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HELCO works to restore power at PGV

HOLLYN JOHNSON/Tribune-Herald Lava flanks Puna Geothermal Venture on June 3, 2018.

Electricity may be restored soon at Puna Geothermal Venture as the Hawaii Electric Light Company works to reconnect the facility to the electric grid.

HELCO spokeswoman Kristen Okinaka said both HELCO and PGV are hard at work to restore the geothermal plant to operational capacity by the end of this year. As part of that process, HELCO is currently extending power lines to the PGV facility over the cooled lava flow.

“Currently, the biggest challenge is gaining access to damaged areas,” wrote Okinaka in an email.

“We conducted a site assessment with PGV officials for installing a pole line to provide electric service to PGV. It was determined that utility poles can be safely erected along the roadway they constructed.”

PGV spokesman Mike Kaleikini said the power substation serving the facility was damaged during the Kilauea eruption last year.

The lava also obviously wiped out several power poles connecting the facility to the grid.

While the facility does have portable generators on site to provide temporary power, reconnecting with HELCO is necessary to bring PGV back to full operations, Kaleikini said. Initially, power will only be restored to the facility’s control room and administration building.

While power may be restored to PGV within the next several weeks, restoring power to a nearby lava-locked kipuka may take longer. Okinaka said HELCO is working with customers on a case-by-case basis to determine how best to restore power to them.

PGV has previously stated that it will return to full operational status by the end of 2019. Kaleikini said there are no new developments in that process and that they are still working on assessing the facility.

HELCO works to restore power at PGV
May 5, 2019, by Michael Brestovansky, Hawaii Tribune-Herald
https://www.hawaiitribune-herald.com/2019/05/05/hawaii-news/helco-works-to-restore-power-at-pgv/

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Geothermal Making Inroads as Baseload Power

The Sonoma Plant operated by Calpine is one of more than 20 geothermal power plants sited at The Geysers, the world’s largest geothermal field, located in Northern California. Courtesy: Creative Commons / Stepheng3

Geothermal, accessing heat from the earth, is considered a sustainable and environmentally friendly source of renewable energy. In some parts of the world, the heat that can be used for geothermal is easily accessible, while in other areas, access is more challenging. Areas with volcanic activity, such as Hawaii—where the recently restarted Puna Geothermal Venture supplies about 30% of the electricity demand on the island of Hawaii—are well-suited to geothermal systems.

“What we need to do as a renewable energy industry is appreciate that we need all sources of renewable power to be successful and that intermittent sources of power need the baseload sources to get to a 100% renewable portfolio,” Will Pettitt, executive director of the Geothermal Resources Council (GRC), told POWER. “Geothermal therefore needs to be collaborating with the solar, wind, and biofuel industries to make this happen.”

Bringing the Heat: Geothermal Making Inroads as Baseload Power
May 1, 2019, by Darrell Proctor, Power Magazine

Bringing the Heat: Geothermal Making Inroads as Baseload Power

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GG 699: Summer Fieldschool in Hydrogeophysics in Volcanic Environments

The University of Hawai‘i at Mānoa Department of Earth Sciences, Hawai‘i Institute of Geophysics and Planetology, and Water Resources Research Center offers GG 699: Summer Fieldschool in Hydrogeophysics in Volcanic Environments. This hydrogeophysical summer school program aims to identify and quantify groundwater flow and its distribution in the old stream valley at Makapu‘u on the island of O‘ahu.

Participants will be trained in a wide variety of multi-geophysical methods, including ambient noise seismics, nodal-based, true 3D electrical resistivity tomography, and self-potential. The course covers the entire geophysical workflow, including data acquisition planning, data collection in the field, data processing, imaging, and hydrogeological interpretations. Special emphasis is on the integration of hydrogeophysical data and hydrologic modeling — a skill that is transferable to the reservoir scale in exploration geophysics. Participants will become familiar with the challenges and solutions for data acquisition and imaging in basaltic environments.

GG 699: Summer Fieldschool in Hydrogeophysics in Volcanic Environments, CRN 92270

About the Instructor: Niels Grobbe is an Assistant Researcher (tenure-track faculty) in Hydrogeophysics and Applied Geophysics at the University of Hawai‘i at Mānoa. He holds a joint position in the Hawai‘i Institute of Geophysics and Planetology, School of Ocean and Earth Science and Technology, and the Water Resources Research Center.

Additional Information:

  • The course fee of 226 USD includes tuition, local transportation to and from the study sites, and food/drinks.
  • Off-island participants need to cover their own flights and lodging. University Student Housing is the cheapest option: $23.16 per night. $25 application fee. $100 security deposit.
  • The course is also open to State employees
  • Maximum number of participants: 20, first come first serve.
sponsored by the Society of Exploration Geophysicists (SEG)

https://www.hawaii.edu/epscor/event/hands-on-hydrogeophysical-field-experience-on-oahu-cutting-edge-science-and-scenic-beauty/

 

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State launches new air quality website in wake of Kilauea eruption

Hawaii Ambient Air Quality Data

The state Health Department has launched a new website that provides near real-time data on the air quality in Hawaii and is expected to serve as a one-stop online resource, particularly in the event of future volcanic eruptions.

The launch is timed to coincide with National Air Quality Awareness Week, which lasts through Friday.

“Kilauea provided valuable lessons for our state,” said health director and Hawaii island resident Bruce Anderson in a news release. “Residents in communities on the Big Island were severely impacted by Kilauea, especially those with respiratory conditions. There were numerous days during the eruption when the air quality was unhealthy and health effects were a concern. We listened to the concerns of residents, took action to improve our air quality monitoring system, and created a one-stop, user-friendly website. We’re much more volcano-ready than we have ever been.”

Data for the website is pulled from air quality monitoring stations at strategic locations throughout the state, the majority of which are on Hawaii island. The data is updated continuously but normally displayed within one hour after collection.

The public can access the data via an interactive air quality map.

Due to the unprecedented severity and duration of last summer’s Kilauea eruption, the state Health Department realized the need to provide accessible, reliable data for residents affected by the resulting vog and other effects.

Thanks to more than $1.5 million in federal and state funds, the state was able to upgrade and expand its air quality monitoring system.

Six new air quality monitoring stations have been installed at Honaunau, Kailua-Kona, Keaau, Naalehu, Pahoa and Waikoloa on Hawaii island, bringing the total statewide to 18.

Air quality is ranked using a six-tiered, color-coded index system based on a national standard. Green indicates that the air quality is good, yellow moderate, and orange unhealthy for sensitive groups. Red indicates the air quality is unhealthy, purple very unhealthy, and maroon, hazardous.

State launches new air quality website in wake of Kilauea eruption
May 2, 2019, Honolulu Star-Advertiser
https://www.staradvertiser.com/2019/05/02/breaking-news/state-launches-new-air-quality-website-in-wake-of-kilauea-eruption/

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State launches new air-quality monitoring website

The public can access the data, which includes an interactive air quality map: http://health.hawaii.gov/cab/hawaii-ambient-air-quality-data/.

A new website that provides near real-time data on the air quality in Hawaii is now live to coincide with National Air Quality Awareness Week, which is recognized from April 29 to May 3, the state Department of Health announced today.

Residents and visitors to the islands now have a one-stop online resource for air-quality information that is especially useful in the event of future volcanic eruptions, according to the DOH.

Developed by the DOH, data for the website is pulled from air-quality monitoring stations at strategic locations throughout the state, the majority of which are on Hawaii Island.

The public can access the data, which includes an interactive air quality map, at http://health.hawaii.gov/cab/hawaii-ambient-air-quality-data/.

The unprecedented severity and duration of last summer’s Kilauea eruption pointed to the need for useful, accessible and reliable data for residents affected by the resulting vog and other effects of the volcano. The DOH was able to successfully secure more than $1.5 million in federal and state funds to expand and upgrade the state’s air-quality monitoring system.

The funding enabled the state to invest in six new long-term stations, which have been located at Honaunau, Kailua-Kona, Kea‘au, Na‘alehu, Pahoa and Waikoloa. The total system now consists of 18 air quality monitoring stations statewide, the DOH said.

Implementation of the expanded air-quality monitoring system was a collaborative, intradepartmental initiative between the health department’s Clean Air Branch and State Laboratories Division.

“Kilauea provided valuable lessons for our state. Residents in communities on the Big Island were severely impacted by Kilauea, especially those with respiratory conditions,” said Bruce Anderson, health director, who is a Hawaii Island resident himself. “There were numerous days during the eruption when the air quality was unhealthy and health effects were a concern. We listened to the concerns of residents, took action to improve our air quality monitoring system, and created a one-stop, user-friendly website. We’re much more volcano-ready than we have ever been.”

State launches new air-quality monitoring website
May 1, 2019, Hawaii Tribune-Herald
https://www.hawaiitribune-herald.com/2019/05/01/hawaii-news/state-launches-new-air-quality-monitoring-website/

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How Kilauea Volcano forever transformed the landscape of Lower Puna


After the 2018 Kilauea eruptions, thermal ocean ponds have formed at the Big Island at Pohoiki Bay and the Isaac Hale Beach Park.

“[At the Isaac Hale Beach Park,] the Hale house sits a few feet back from the boat ramp that was used by fishermen before the lava flow and sand choked off the channel, leaving a warm seawater lagoon. Thermal seawater ponds also formed elsewhere along the shore.”

“How Kilauea Volcano forever transformed the landscape of Lower Puna”
May 1, 2019, By Mindy Pennybacker

How Kilauea Volcano forever transformed the landscape of Lower Puna

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Colored Hawaiian salt could evaporate under federal ban

Red and black Hawaiian salts can add visual spice and flavor to food. They are also technically illegal to sell under federal law.

This predicament led local manufacturers of the two artisanal, premium-priced salts to seek assistance this year from state lawmakers for certifying the salts as safe to make them legal under U.S. Food and Drug Administration regulations.

Lawmakers were considering paying for, or partially paying for, scientific studies and FDA review to determine whether the elements that give these salts their color — alaea clay from Kauai and activated charcoal — are safe food additives after decades of use.

One industry estimate is that this work will cost $150,000 at a minimum.

However, members of a joint House and Senate conference committee on Friday failed to work out differences on a bill aimed at paying for certification work, ending the chance that makers of colored Hawaiian salt will receive such help this year.

Local salt makers contend the industry is too small to afford the certification cost. But they also claim the industry is too important not to seek safety certification. They also say a warning the FDA issued in 2015 has led some distributors and retailers to gradually stop ordering red and black Hawaiian salt under the possibility of enforcement action, though the product remains widely available for purchase.

“If we do not comply with the FDA requirements this business will be completely destroyed in time, adversely affecting employment and export business for the state of Hawaii,” George Joseph, president of a San Diego- based company that produces sea salt on Molokai, told lawmakers in written testimony.

Joseph, who heads Hawaii Kai Corp., was testifying on House Bill 1229, introduced by Rep. Mark Hashem (D, Hahaione Valley-Aina Haina- Kahala).

The bill initially sought to appropriate an unspecified sum of money to the state Department of Business, Economic Development and Tourism to help address FDA regulations on colored sea salts. A Senate committee later amended the bill to have private businesses pay half the cost.

“Sea salt products colored with Hawaiian charcoal, volcanic clay, and other natural ingredients help to promote the state’s brand,” the bill states.

However, there were concerns over who would pay for complying with the federal law and who benefits.

“The question as to who will pay and how much is of concern,” DBEDT Director Mike McCartney said in written testimony, noting that no Hawaii salt trade organization exists.

Certifying red clay and charcoal as safe salt additives would benefit companies in Hawaii and beyond, including producers, distributors and retailers.

Some salt producers say business is declining, and they fear it will dry up completely and be replaced by competitors such as naturally pink Himalayan sea salt.

Cameron Hiro, a Molokai resident who was supplying Hawaii Kai Corp., said in written testimony on HB 1229 that his operation producing about 2,500 pounds of salt a month with four workers is shuttered largely due to the FDA regulations.

“We are basically in a maintenance mode,” he said, also noting that four jobs on economically distressed Molokai is a relatively big loss.

Paul Nagy, a vice president at Illinois-based food supplier and distributor Woodland Foods, said in written testimony that red and black Hawaiian salts are an important part of the company’s global product portfolio, and that Woodland recently lost a long-term opportunity to sell these salts to one of the world’s largest retailers because of the FDA warning.

Hawaiian Pa‘akai also testified in support of the bill, saying it produces 10,000 pounds of red sea salt per month and has made the product since the 1970s using alaea clay harvested from mountains on Kauai.

Kauai-based Salty Wahine Gourmet Hawaiian Sea Salts testified that Costco on Kauai quit buying its red and black Hawaiian salts in 2016. Salty Wahine also said it worked with Hawaii Kai Corp. to seek certification but found the requirements too daunting.

Salty Wahine said that prior to 2015 the FDA maintained a list of colorants prohibited for food uses, and that charcoal, alaea clay and pharmaceutical-grade bamboo (used to make green sea salt) were OK because they weren’t on the list.

In 2015, however, the agency published a “guidance” document explaining that color additives in food are deemed unsafe unless they are approved as safe by the FDA. “Neither charcoal nor red clay is listed for safe use by FDA,” the document states.

As such, the agency considers red and black Hawaiian salt to be “adulterated” foods prohibited in interstate commerce. “FDA can take enforcement action against an adulterated food product, consistent with our priorities and resources,” the document said.

Joseph of Hawaii Kai Corp. said the reversal in policy and singling out red and black Hawaiian salts is unfair. “These two ingredients are safe and had been used for human consumption for centuries,” he said in an email.

PRICEY PROHIBITION

A sampling of prices for red “alaea” or black Hawaiian salt

>> Salt Traders (4-ounce jar): $8 at salttraders.com

>> Pacifica Hawaii (8-ounce package): $10 at Foodland

>> Artisan Salt Co. (8-ounce pouch): $6.35 on Amazon

Colored Hawaiian salt could evaporate under federal ban
April 29, 2019, by Andrew Gomes, Honolulu Star-Advertiser

Colored Hawaiian salt could evaporate under federal ban

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What Did (And Didn’t) Cause The Kīlauea Eruption

It’s been nearly a year since Kīlauea erupted on the Big Island’s lower East Rift Zone. The event destroyed more than 700 structures and displaced hundreds, if not thousands, of residents. Scientists are still studying the eruption, but they think they know what did, and didn’t, cause it.

According to officials with the U.S. Geological Survey, last year’s Kīlauea eruption was unprecedented. It was the largest eruption in 200 years, and caused the biggest collapse of the volcano’s summit.

For the better part of a year, the USGS has been sifting through mountains of data recorded during the event. In that time, they’ve been asked what caused the eruption — specifically, whether the Puna Geothermal Venture played any role.

“There is no evidence, that we’re aware of, that the geothermal drilling or production on the East Rift Zone of Kīlauea had any impact whatsoever on the events of 2018,” said Tina Neal, scientist-in-charge at the Hawaiian Volcano Observatory.

“You have to think about the scale of energy, and scale of activity here. The geothermal production is occuring in a very small part of the East Rift Zone. And what we saw leading up to the eruption in 2018 was almost an entire volcano-wide event.”

Neal says Kīlauea was showing signs weeks before magma surfaced in Lower Puna. And that the eruption was most likely caused by the build-up of magmatic pressure at the volcano’s summit, combined with a weakened rift zone.

According to the USGS, the relationship between magma supply, magmatic pressure, and strength of the volcanic structure are the typical culprits for most eruptions around the world.

The USGS recently downgraded Kīlauea’s alert level to “normal.” But Neal says the volcano is still very active, and continues to be a threat to nearby areas.

What Did (And Didn’t) Cause The Kīlauea Eruption
April 23, 2019, by Casey Harlow, Hawaii Public Radio
https://www.hawaiipublicradio.org/post/what-did-and-didnt-cause-k-lauea-eruption

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