Puna Geothermal Venture’s $150,000 donation to Hawaii County aimed at helping Puna residents affected by the Kilauea eruption was unrelated to its request to build an emergency access road over the lava flow, says its Hawaii representative.
Mayor Harry Kim wrote a letter to Mike Kaleikini, senior director of Hawaii affairs for Ormat Technologies, PGV’s parent company, on Nov. 26 thanking the company for the donation to “help people affected by the Lower East Rift Zone eruption.”
The county gave PGV the go-ahead in early December to begin construction of its “pioneer road” over the lava channel to regain access to the lava-locked site off Highway 132 after another supplementary disaster declaration was issued. The declaration, dated Dec. 6, allows for modifications of the flow field when authorized by county Civil Defense and other agencies.
Kaleikini said Thursday that Ormat officials promised a six-figure donation to the county during the early days of the eruption, which started May 3. He said the meeting likely occurred in May or early June.
“They needed money for temporary housing,” Kaleikini said.
“Our intent was to help out with the eruption.”
Kim also said the donation was promised months in advance and was not related to the road access issue. He said the donation was made in early November, and County Council approval is needed to accept the funds.
Kim said the money will be set aside for use in Puna.
Subsequent to approving PGV’s grubbing and grading permit, the county issued a notice informing other property owners how they can apply for the permits.
The permit applications start at county Civil Defense before being reviewed by the departments of Planning and Public Works.
Talmadge Magno, Civil Defense administrator, said he was aware of six applications, including the one from PGV, that have come through his office.
It wasn’t immediately clear if other permits have been issued.
Kaleikini said PGV also donated 40-foot containers and supplies to the “Hub,” operated by Pu‘uhonua O Puna, and made a $25,000 donation to the Red Cross. He said employees also provided security at temporary shelters.
Hawaiʻi County Mayor Harry Kim thanked Puna Geothermal Venture executives for a six-figure donation, a short time before the company was granted permission to cut an access road over the inactive lava channel that isolated the company’s power plant during the summer eruption of Kīlauea Volcano.
In a November 26 letter to Mike Kaleikini, the Senior Director of Hawaiʻi Affairs for PGV’s parent company, Ormat, Mayor Kim expressed gratitude for the “generous donation of $150,000 to help the people affected by the Lower East Rift Zone eruption.”
“This wonderfully meaningful gesture will go a long way toward supporting the County’s efforts to mitigate the arduous ordeal suffered by so many of our neighbors in the Puna community,” Kim wrote in the letter that was only recently posted to the county website. “It is especially meaningful because your company, Puna Geothermal Venture suffered alongside everyone in the eruption zone.”
The lower East Rift Zone eruption of Kīlauea began on May 3, 2018 and forced Puna Geothermal to shut down. For several dramatic weeks, lava threatened to inundate the power plant, and officials scrambled to prevent a potential catastrophic interaction between the volcanic activity and the resource wells at the industrial facility. PGV has been offline ever since.
“I want to take this opportunity to thank you personally for being there with our first responders at Civil Defense day in and day out during the four-month emergency. Your presence was extremely helpful; it showed your spirit of solidarity with everyone involved,” the mayor wrote.
On December 6, Kim signed a Sixth Supplementary Emergency Proclamation, lifting a set of lava-related prohibitions and allowing private lot owners to make “limited restorative physical modifications to the lava flow field surface on their private lot as authorized.” Puna Geothermal Venture was given approval to start work on an access road.
Work on cutting a “pioneer road” over the large lava channel was completed on December 14, the Hawaiʻi Tribune-Herald reported.
Contacted by phone before the Christmas holiday, Kaleikini told Big Island Video News he would have an update after the holiday.
“Mayor Thanks Ormat, PGV Regains Access After Eruption”
Dec 26, 2018, Big Island Video News
The Big Island produced a lot of new lava rock this year, and some of it could be the raw material for a new local industry, according to a report commissioned by a state agency.
The report said there’s potential to commercially produce a versatile building material called basalt fiber — similar to carbon fiber and glass fiber from rock.
A production plant on Hawaii island costing $78 million could generate an average annual profit of $15 million over 30 years and employ 81 people earning $75,000 on average, said the analysis by California-based consulting firm SMA Inc.
But challenges also exist, including uncertainty over whether lava rock on the island is suitable for producing high-quality basalt fiber.
“Hawaii County is an ideal location for a basalt fiber manufacturing plant due to the ease of access to basalt and desire from the Hawaiian government to develop the nascent industry, however there are a number of risks and issues,” the report said.
The Pacific International Space Center for Exploration Systems, an aerospace center in Hilo operating under the state Department of Business, Economic Development and Tourism, commissioned the report from SMA after issuing a request for proposals last year.
The agency is exploring basalt fiber because it is seen as something that can be produced and used on the moon and Mars. Basalt, which is made up of varying levels of three minerals — plagioclase, olivine and pyroxene — is similar on the Big Island, the moon and Mars, according to the agency.
Basalt fiber can be made into durable fabrics, rebar, insulation materials and structural mesh. It can be used in place of nearly all applications that use asbestos and is more resistant to heat, abrasions, corrosion, vibrations and chemicals, according to PISCES. The fiber is produced by crushing, washing and melting rock, which is then extruded into fine filaments that can be made into different products.
SMA’s report said the worldwide value of basalt fiber production is estimated at $178 million this year and is expected to grow to $405 million in the next decade. The company said most basalt fiber is made in Russia and China. The report also identified plants in Austria, Ireland and one established earlier this year in North Carolina by the operator of the plant in Ireland.
SMA said U.S. producers can’t compete on price with plants in Russia and China, so they need to focus on quality, customer service and technology.
“Limited manufacturing capacity in the United States means there is an opportunity to establish a local champion to meet emerging needs for U.S. customers,” the report said.
In Hawaii, SMA suggested producing stringlike strands of basalt fiber instead of other products such as rebar because it has a broad customer base and it’s easier to produce, sell and export.
The company said that even with Hawaii’s high costs for labor, materials and energy, a plant could generate about $33 million in revenue and $15 million in profit annually over the long term.
Risks for a local plant include energy cost increases, labor cost and availability, community activist opposition, trade-war tariffs and currency rate fluctuations, the report noted. PISCES has determined that the mineral composition of lava rock on the Big Island can produce basalt fiber, but SMA said testing the strength of basalt fiber made from Hawaii rock hasn’t been done.
“None of these risks alone will break the business case, but taken together they could severely limit the viability of the venture,” the report said.
The operators of a Hawaii geothermal power plant have started restoring road access to the property cut off by lava from the Kilauea volcano eruption.
Big Island Mayor Harry Kim authorized a vegetation removal and grading permit for Puna Geothermal Venture to clear lava for a road to its site, the Hawaii Tribune-Herald reported Wednesday.
The plant near the intersection of State Highway 132 and Pohoiki Road is sandwiched between the main lava channel and a string of fissures that opened during the eruption.
Work clearing a path began over the weekend, said Mike Kaleikini, a senior director for plant-owner Ormat Technologies. The new road will run parallel to the highway until it reaches the plant’s former driveway. It will then need to cross the lava channel, which is up to 400 yards wide, he said.
The project could take a week or two to complete, Kaleikini said.
The permit was granted after Kim issued a supplemental disaster declaration, which allows the county to permit the clearing of fresh lava rock. Kim said he asked Ormat officials to also help restore road access to adjoining properties.
Kaleikini said Ormat is committed to helping neighbors regain access, but he noted liability issues would need to be worked out.
Restarting operations at the geothermal plant could take about 18 months, Kaleikini said. The timeline will depend on assessments that have been mostly put on hold because of the road access problem.
Big Island officials are waiting to assess if other inundated roads can be restored until six months have passed from when the Hawaiian Volcano Observatory reduced the volcano alert level, which occurred in early October.
Puna Geothermal Venture was given the go-ahead to restore road access to its lava-locked property.
Clearing of the “pioneer road” at the site off Highway 132 began this weekend after PGV received a grubbing and grading permit from Hawaii County, said Mike Kaleikini, senior director of Hawaiian affairs for Ormat Technologies, which owns the 38-megawatt geothermal power plant.
The permit was authorized after Mayor Harry Kim issued a supplemental disaster declaration that allows the county to permit clearing of the fresh lava rock.
PGV sits on a large lease-hold parcel, a corner of which borders the “Y” intersection of Highway 132 and Pohoiki Road.
The main lava channel from the four-month-long eruption crosses the property but spared the plant, which is sandwiched between the channel and a string of fissures.
Kaleikini said the road is being established via the mauka side of the flow near Highway 132.
He said the path will parallel the highway until it reaches the plant’s former driveway. From there, it will traverse the channel, which he estimated to be between 350 and 400 yards across.
The maximum height of the channel is 50-60 feet in that area, Kaleikini said. He estimated the road could take a week or two to complete.
Lava has been cooling since it stopped flowing in the channel in August.
A few dozen residences also remain isolated by the lava flows in that area.
Kim said he asked Ormat officials to help provide road access to adjoining properties.
The county recently built a temporary road over fingers of lava that covered portions of Highway 137 between Isaac Hale Beach Park and MacKenzie State Recreation Area.
The county is waiting until six months have passed from when the Hawaiian Volcano Observatory reduced its alert level for Kilauea, which occurred in early October, before assessing whether other inundated public roads — such as Highway 132, Pohoiki Road, Leilani Avenue and other portions of Highway 137 — can be restored or if new routes need to be made.
Kaleikini said Ormat is committed to helping its neighbors regain access, though he noted liability issues would have to be worked out.
He said the highest temperature recorded over the hardened lava channel in the area was about 180 degrees.
As for when PGV could restart operations, Kaleikini said that will depend on assessments that have been mostly on hold without road access. He previously said that could take about 18 months from when a road could be built.
Puna Geothermal Venture has been given the OK to clear a road through hardened lava to access the plant, but even with a new road getting PGV back up and running could take a while.
Hawaii County officials gave PGV a permit last week to start construction. They told KITV4 work began over the weekend on a road that runs parallel to Highway 132 on the mauka side of the lava flow until it reaches the plants’ former driveway. From there, the road will cut across the lava to the plant.
The Puna-based power plant is owned by Ormat Technologies. It shut down in May when the Kilauea Eruption began.
The road may be complete in a week or two, giving employees access by car. They have been able to access the plant by helicopter.
However, getting the plant up and running again could take months.
“There’s a lot of work that needs to be done,” said Ormat Technologies’ senior director of Hawaiian Affairs, Mike Kaleikini. “It’d be premature to give a firm date on when we think we’ll be running again, but our company has publicly disclosed that it could take up to 18 months or so.”
Hawaii County Mayor Harry Kim asked Ormat Technologies that access to the road be available to residents of that area whose properties were cut off by lava, PGV says that comes with a liability risk because the driveway is constructed entirely on PGV leased land.
“If someone were going to get hurt on our land we’d be liable,” said Kaleikini.
One of the most abundant renewable energy resources in the Hawaiian Islands is geothermal energy, but due to the eruption of the Kilauea volcano on Hawaii’s Big Island in early May and the subsequent shutdown of the state’s only geothermal power plant, Puna Geothermal Venture, its future is uncertain.
Though PGV owner Ormat Technologies Inc. intends to reopen the 38-megawatt facility as soon as possible, others advocate for new geothermal drilling sites that incorporate the use of safe, modern technologies.
“PGV is an old technology that has been around for decades and it’s not as efficient and not as safe as what’s being installed in many other countries around the world today,” state Rep. Chris Lee, chair of the Committee on Energy and Environmental Protection, told PBN in a recent interview. “We definitely have the resources, not only on the Big Island, but in other places too, to do modern, safe geothermal power production.”
Exploration efforts in the ’70s and ’80s suggest that there may be more than 1,000 MW of geothermal reserves on Maui and the Big Island. The amount would be sufficient to collectively power Maui, Hawaii Island, and about one quarter of Oahu or, alternatively, about 60 percent of Oahu’s energy needs, the Hawaii State Energy Office said in 2016.
“That’s something that’s a no brainer for us,” Lee said. “[Geothermal energy is] safe, it’s reliable and it’s available in quantity.”
While there are currently no specific plans for new geothermal sites, Hawaiian Electric’s Power Supply Improvement Plan forecasts 40 MW of new geothermal development on Maui by 2040 and an additional 40 MW of geothermal on Hawaii Island by 2030.
“What we need are some private sector partners, who propose projects in those places to go forward to help lower our cost of power and ultimately get us off the more expensive and volatile fossil fuels that we are relying upon,” Lee added.
Hawaii Island’s renewable energy portfolio took a hit from a series of natural disasters this year, losing geothermal and hydroelectric power sources.
But Mike Kaleikini, senior director for Ormat Technology Inc.’s Puna Geothermal Venture, and Jay Ignacio, president of Hawaii Electric Light Co., vow to put things back on track as soon as they’re able.
Kaleikini and Ignacio, along with Warren Lee, president of Hu Honua Bioenergy LLC, sat down Wednesday for a luncheon talk story session with the Hawaii Island Chamber of Commerce.
“In terms of renewable energy, we’re kind of taking a step back from where we were in 2018,” Ignacio said, adding that the island’s renewable mix now accounts for 25 percent to 30 percent of utility sales.
The island, with a mix of geothermal, solar, wind and hydroelectricity, last year had the highest renewable percentage in the state at 57 percent. That means less than half of total utility sales came from fossil fuels.
In comparison, the state average last year was 27.7 percent, according to the state Public Utilities Commission.
“PGV, Ormat is totally 100 percent committed to returning back to operations,” Kaleikini said. “It’s a different landscape today, but we’re committed to coming back. … It’s been tough.”
Ormat has been helicoptering staff to the site, he said, as a 50-to-60-foot wall of lava blocks the entrance. Major work has to wait until state officials give the go-ahead; a difficult proposition since Gov. David Ige last week signed a fourth supplemental emergency proclamation, extending the lava emergency until Dec. 1.
The 38-megawatt geothermal plant provided 31 percent of the energy to the grid last year. One megawatt powers between 750 and 1,000 homes.
“We’re waiting for the day the governor says this eruption is over,” Kaleikini said.
That lava wall also is keeping HELCO crews from replacing the connection station and transmission lines to the plant, Ignacio said.
Meanwhile, Hurricane Lane took out one of HELCO’s hydroelectric plants on the Wailuku River. Two other plants remain, one privately owned and another owned by HELCO. The damaged plant accounted for just a fraction of the island energy supply at 1 megawatt, but it will be replaced.
HELCO plans to add more solar energy to the grid and is in negotiations for two projects totaling approximately 60 megawatts of generation and 240 megawatt-hours of electrical storage.
Bioenergy power also is planned for the grid. Hu Honua is racing toward a Dec. 31 deadline to be operational or risk losing a $100 million investment tax credit, Lee said. He said the company is operating two construction shifts a day six days a week and one shift Sundays, with some 400 workers on the site at any given time.
“There’s some big bucks going into this,” Lee said. “Big bucks.”
The 30-megawatt plant, once complete, will satisfy 14 percent of the island’s power needs, replacing 250,000 barrels of fossil fuel annually, Lee said. It will process eucalyptus trees and invasive plants and create managed forests for a future, renewable fuel supply, he said.
“The plan is to revitalize the Hamakua Coast with biomass plantations,” Lee said. “Biomass is not just for the large landowners. … Why can’t we have independent tree growers? That’s what we’re looking at.”
Ignacio said HELCO is looking forward to having PGV and Hu Honua contributing to the grid. Still, he said, the utility isn’t ready to totally cut the cord from fossil fuels.
“If we didn’t have the oil-fired units to keep the lights on,” Ignacio said, “we’d be in trouble.”
No work on restoring Puna Geothermal Venture can begin until at least Dec. 1 after Gov. David Ige extended his emergency proclamation for the fourth time earlier this week.
PGV spokesman Mike Kaleikini said the facility remains inaccessible after lava from the lower Puna eruption buried all access routes to the plant earlier this year. While administrators visit the facility each week by helicopter to assess the status of the equipment, he said no work on reopening access to PGV can begin until the emergency proclamation is lifted.
Ige issued a proclamation declaring a state of emergency in response to the eruption in May. While emergency proclamations automatically end after 60 days, Ige has extended the proclamation four times, most recently on Tuesday.
The state of emergency is now scheduled to end Dec. 1.
Issac Angel, CEO of PGV owner Ormat Technologies, has previously stated that restoring the plant to operational capacity would take 18 months.
The plant’s geothermal wells were quenched with cold water and sealed in May, with three of the wells subsequently covered by lava, which also destroyed a warehouse and a substation.
Puna Geothermal Venture updated the community by running this ad in the Honolulu Star-Advertiser this month.
From the ad:
Through this challenging time of the Kilauea volcanic eruption, Puna Geothermal Venture is helping out community in every way we can.
We stand with our friends and neighbors to provide aid and people-power to Puna. PGV personnel are humbled and proud to be part of this strong, resilient community.
We have been helping with disaster relief efforts at Puuhonua O Puna and the Keaau Disaster Response Center.
To ensure safety, our number one priority, we continue to monitor the PGV property through HVO flyovers and visit the site by helicopter to physically inspect the plant.
PGV came online in 1993, providing Hawaii Island with clean, safe, renewable, reliable and affordable geothermal energy. Over the years, we increased production to 38 MW, and in 2017 supplied 31 percent of the island’s electricity. We have been responsible for 30 full-time and many part-time jobs in our community, and provide work for dozens of local vendors. PGV operations have contributed over $30 million in royalty payments to the State, County and the Office of Hawaiian Affairs. PGV looks forward to continue being a part of the community for years to come and, when it is possible to do so, plans to come back online better than ever.
PGV is committed to keep all 30 full-time employees on payroll for at least one year. Ormat has also donated funds to American Red Cross for disaster response and recovery in Hawaii and has also committed to provide financial support to Hawaii County to further assist with the Kilauea eruption event.
The Power Plant remains shut down and all the geothermal wells are shut. All pentane was removed and remains off site, at a safe storage location away from the eruption. All six geothermal production wells have been quenched with cool water. Five of the six wells have mechanical plugs in place. One well is plugged with a clay/mud plug. All wells are capped with a thick steel plate called a blind flange. There have been no explosions at the plant, nor release of hydrogen sulfide (H2S). We expect all wells’ mechanical integrity to remain intact, as they have through the lava activity. Currently, lava has intruded on portions of our facility property. Production wells KS-6 and KS-5 are covered along with injection well KS-11. Our electrical substation is inundated. A storage area protecting a drill rig was also covered by lava. The remainder of the facility remains generally intact.
We stay in close communications with the Hawaii Emergency Management Administrator, Civil Defense and Mayor Harry Kim regarding conditions at the PGV facility.
We also acknowledge and thank the vendors and contractors that have provided essential services to PGV during these challenging times.
The PGV Team
Thanks to Michael Kaleikini of Puna Geothermal Venture for letting us post this ad.
The late U.S. Senator Daniel K. Akaka supported geothermal development. In fact, he delivered a speech at the 1985 International Symposium on Geothermal Energy at Kailua-Kona, Hawaii:
The great advantage of geothermal is that it is constant, reliable, and does not depend on intermittent phenomena like wind and sunshine. The geology of Hawaii presents some of the best conditions in the world for the development of geothermal energy.
… Developing geothermal energy can be thought of as going into partnership with Madame Pele. The eruptions that are now taking place can be looked upon in two ways: a warning not to get too close to the source and an affirmation of the abundant power that is available.
… Geothermal plants, by the end of this century, could supply the total electrical needs of this island and much of the needs of the rest of the state.
A month ago, the Honolulu Star-Advertiser did a poll about whether its subscribers approve Puna Geothermal Venture. The majority of the poll respondents supported geothermal. These results make sense because with the already high costs of living in Hawaii and the costs to transport fossil fuel, we may as well use the volcano power we already have.
Lava flows are threatening several wells at the Puna Geothermal Venture plant, after earlier cutting off the primary access road to the facility.
But authorities said they’re “confident” that stabilization work will prevent explosions and the uncontrolled release of dangerous gases — as it did with the first two wells that were overrun by lava over the weekend.
“Nothing that I know of is designed to operate with lava intrusion,” said Tom Travis, of the Hawaii Emergency Management Agency.
“So there’s going to be some things that burn up, you know oil is gonna make a big black cloud and smell real bad and probably not be good to breathe. But probably the lava will be intimidating enough, there will be no one near it, it might not matter.”
Aerial images shot Tuesday show lava cutting across the primary access road to the plant and encroaching on the property, taking several structures with it. The structures that were destroyed are not part of the plant, but are on land leased by the company.
Travis said that about 3 p.m., lava encroached onto well pad a, which holds several injection wells.
The new threat to the plant comes on the heels of lava flows covering two wells at the property over the weekend and as ongoing vigorous eruptions continue in lower Puna.
Puna Geothermal Venture plant spokesman Mike Kaleikini has stressed that no release of hydrogen sulfide has been detected on the site — the biggest concern if lava were to hit the geothermal wells at the site.
Gov. David Ige, meanwhile, said at a news conference Sunday that authorities “feel confident that the risk is mitigated.”
Before the lava encroached onto the property, 10 of the 11 wells were “quenched” with cold water — a process in which the well is injected with water to cool and depressurization it. An 11th well was plugged with bentonite clay after proving resistant to quenching efforts.
Plant officials have said the mud-like substance is holding up and the pressure in the 11th well has stayed down.
However, officials have conceded they don’t know if hydrogen sulfide is the only possible hazard the community could face if lava interacts with their wells.
Lava buried a Puna geothermal energy well Sunday and is putting a real test to a public safety plan that had been under intense scrutiny by Hawaii government leaders.
Gov. David Ige said residents in the area, some of whom live or had lived about a quarter-mile from the Puna Geothermal Venture site, are safe and shouldn’t worry.
“The PGV site is stable,” he said during a press conference late Sunday afternoon as the nearest lobe of molten rock was estimated to be around 6 feet from the well.
“We believe that we have mitigated any risk to the community,” he said. “Our main focus — from both the mayor (Harry Kim) and myself — has been on the safety and security of the community. We will continue to focus on that. Every single decision that we are making (is) on behalf of the people to keep them safe and informed and aware of what’s happening.”
The fear concerning lava burying geothermal wells is that it could breach the shafts, which go down 6,000 to 8,000 feet where they tap steam and hot water to power turbines producing electricity. Such a breach could cause an uncontrolled release of hydrogen sulfide or other potentially dangerous volcanic gases.
Ige said he’s confident this won’t happen based on work over the last 2-1/2 weeks by a task force that assessed and advised on emergency plans PGV previously devised specifically for a lava event such as this.
Risk mitigation work included “quenching” two geothermal production wells by filling them with water that acts as a heavy plug to contain the gases and hot liquid far below the surface. A third production well was filled with barite, a claylike substance that hardens when heated. This was done because water quenching didn’t work.
Also, heavy metal valves designed to withstand intense heat from lava were closed, equipment above the surface well heads was removed and pits containing the closed well heads were filled with cinder.
Ige said there is constant hydrogen sulfide gas monitoring in the area, and if any is detected Hawaii County Civil Defense will issue an immediate alert using sirens, radio and door-to-door notification in any affected area.
Michael Kaleikini, PGV’s director of Hawaii affairs, said he is “exponentially” more confident that protected wells buried by lava will be safe.
Kaleikini said the pit feature exists so PGV can bore through cooled lava and reactivate the wells that are marked by GPS coordinates. So it may be possible to restart the plant one day, he said.
PGV closed its power plant, which typically generates 25 percent of Hawaii island’s electricity, shortly after lava began coming out of ground fissures in the adjacent Leilani Estates subdivision May 3.
The task force was led by Tom Travis, administrator of the Hawaii Emergency Management Agency, along with Kim and Hawaii County Civil Defense Administrator Talmadge Magno.
Travis said he expects nothing to happen due to lava covering quenched and sealed wells.
Only three production wells closest to the lava have been treated this way. A fourth well in the area is an injection well and doesn’t connect to the deep heat source. There are six other wells on the property, including at least two production wells, but they are on land that is farther away and 50 to 150 feet higher in elevation.
Roxanne Kala, a teacher at Kamehameha Schools in Keaau, was at her childhood home in Leilani Estates on Sunday, helping her parents remove belongings.
She said she isn’t worried about wells getting buried by lava. She’s more concerned about her family home, which is now about a block from an expanding lava flow.
“It’s grown massively,” she said of the flow, adding that she respects the power of Hawaiian fire goddess Pele, prays for safety and was helping her parents find closure with the lava threat so near.
“Witnessing her (Pele’s) creation as well as her devastation has been part of our life,” she said.
The lava near the Kala family home is from fissure 7, which advanced onto the PGV site Saturday, then paused early Sunday. But by around midday Sunday, fissure 7 was spouting lava an estimated 180 feet into the air and fed the flow that covered the well.
At 7:45 p.m. the county Civil Defense Agency ordered an immediate evacuation for Leilani Estates residents on Nohea and Luana streets between Leilani Avenue and Kahukai Street. Also, Kupono Street between Malama Street and Leilani Avenue.
Previously, lava from another direction and fissure had encroached on PGV property and contributed to the urgent government involvement in PGV emergency plans. That earlier flow, however, dried up.
Jim Kauahikaua of the U.S. Geological Survey said fissure 7 was the biggest lava producer among five fissures active Sunday.
Lava from this fissure also is moving south and possibly could create a third flow into the ocean in the next day or two, he said. Two other flows continue to enter the ocean near MacKenzie State Recreation Area.
One new fissure, 24, opened Sunday, and after relatively brief lava production, mounds of steaming rock in Leilani Estates were left across a section of Kupono Street.
Robert Henry, a 16-year Leilani Estates resident who was observing the scene at fissure 24 while on a mission to remove furniture from his distant house, said it looked like the landscape was firebombed.
“This is what it looked like in Vietnam when they dropped napalm,” he said. “This is surreal. The sulfur on the rocks. It’s amazing.”
A production well at Puna Geothermal Venture in Puna was covered by lava late Sunday afternoon, Hawaii County Civil Defense reported.
The agency said the lava came from fissures No. 21 and No. 7, which at 7:45 p.m. Sunday evening was described by Civil Defense as “fast moving” and a threat to more structures in Leilani Estates.
The well, KS-6, along with a second well about 100 yards away, have been “successfully plugged” and “are stable and secured, and are being monitored,” according to Civil Defense. Neither well is expected to release any hydrogen sulfide, a toxic gas used in the wells, the agency said.
At an afternoon media briefing in Hilo, Gov. David Ige said, “The Puna Geothermal Venture site is safe. We believe we have mitigated any risk to the community.”
Ige said PGV employees and a task force assembled by the governor remain on site and are working to eliminate or minimize any hazards.
Tom Travis, director of Hawaii Emergency Management Agency and the head of the task force, said the four wells on one of the power plant’s pads — production wells KS-5, KS-6 and KS-14, plus injection well KS-3 — “are presenting minimum interference to the lava. They’re all close to the ground and covered, so the lava should go right over them.” All are in the lava’s path, he confirmed.
Travis said KS-5 and KS-6 have been quenched and plugged with large master valves, and cinder has been put into the well cylinders as a buffer between the lava and the valves.
Mike Kaleikini, PGV’s senior director of Hawaii affairs, said KS-14, which didn’t respond to efforts to quench it, was plugged with a clay-like substance called barite, and cinder also was installed over the barite.
“From my perspective … we’ve got a sufficient plug that’s in there. We would like to have put in the metal plug, but we’re confident that the plug will maintain its mechanical integrity,” Kaleikini said.
Concern has previously been expressed about the potential release of hydrogen sulfide from lava reaching PGV’s production wells. The power plant has been taken offline, but KS-14 is still considered active. Travis said it would be “difficult … to imagine” a hydrogen sulfide leak “as a result of the intrusion of the lava.”
“That doesn’t mean that there may not be a case that I haven’t anticipated. (But) I can give you no example of how that might happen right now,” he said.
Ige noted the county’s standard for evacuation of workers and nearby residents due to hydrogen sulfide occurs at 25 parts per billion. He said that is “a thousand times” stricter than the federal Occupational Safety and Health Administration’s standard for workplace exposure. He said constant readings have shown a hydrogen sulfide emission level of zero at the site, but acknowledged the release of the gas into the air “is a possibility.”
“But we believe the PGV site is safe …” Ige said. “So, we feel, at this point in time, that the facility is stable and secure, and we don’t anticipate that there would be any issue with the PGV site.”
Kaleikini said there are two other well pads that are at a higher elevation than the pad covered by lava on Sunday, and another well, KS-9, still displays activity “at a lower pressure” than KS-14.
“We’ve got a pretty good handle on that. We’re getting ready to put a plug in that, also,” he said. “… I just want to emphasize … that we don’t anticipate any compromise of the wells’ mechanical integrity. We don’t anticipate any emissions of hydrogen sulfide from our geothermal wells.
“… I think the peace of mind will come once the lava crosses over the well and we can tell you guys that the well is fine, which is what we fully anticipate.”
The governor also said two Marine Corps CH-53 Sea Stallion helicopters, due to return to Marine Corps Base Hawaii on Oahu after a seven-day Big Island deployment, will remain “as long as we believe there is the possibility of a mass evacuation.”
Hawaiian Volcano Observatory reported Sunday that a new fissure, No. 24, is active in Leilani Estates subdivision between Nohea and Kupono streets.
HVO geophysicist Jim Kauahikaua said fissures 8 and 16 reactivated, 22 and 13 are still the main southbound channels going into the two ocean entries, but No. 7 is the biggest producer, with lava fountains almost 200 feet high.
“It’s been very dramatic,” Kauahikaua said. “We can actually see that fountaining very clearly on one of our East Rift Zone cams, that’s called the PGV cam.
“From vent 7, there are two main channels. The north channel goes toward PGV property, and the south channel will … go south, possibly creating a new ocean entry sometime in the next day or two, if it continues.”
Kauahikaua said there that about noon on Sunday, there was an ash plume at the summit of Kilauea which rose 10,000-feet above sea level, and the summit area of Kilauea “is still deflating.”
“The Lower East Rift Zone is quite stable, in terms of expansion and earthquakes. Gas emission rates are quite high in both areas,” he said.
Steve Brantley, HVO deputy scientist-in-charge, said the lava lake in the overlook crater inside Kilauea’s caldera has grown from about 12 acres on May 5 to between 90 and 94 acres on Saturday “as a result of rockfalls peeling away from the overlook crater walls and falling into the deepening conduit.”
Ian Morrison, a meteorologist at the National Weather Service in Honolulu, said the moderate tradewinds of the past several days, which has blown the ash and volcanic emissions to the southwest, are forecast to weaken today and shift to a more easterly, and perhaps southeasterly, direction.
“That’s gonna push some of the volcanic emissions more toward over the Puna area and possibly into the Hilo area by (this) evening,” Morrison said.
He said Puna and Hilo should experience vog, at least into Tuesday, when the trades are expected to “reinvigorate and strengthen, bringing a more east-northeast flow, and pushing the emissions down toward the coastline towards the southwest.”
Morrison said there also will be increased rain-shower activity in East Hawaii.
The lava flow on the Puna Geothermal Venture property on Hawaii island appears to have stopped and has not reached any wells there, a scientist with the U.S. Geological Survey said today.
Lava on Saturday had entered the property from fissures that began in nearby Leilani Estates subdivision and crossed Pohoiki Road.
But the flow that was approaching a well pad slowed overnight and appears to have stopped, Steve Brantley, deputy scientist in charge of the USGS Hawaiian Volcano Observatory, told reporters. He did not have information on how close the lava got to the well.
Hydrogen sulfide has not been detected in the area.
The PGV power plant was shut down shortly after the Kilauea eruption began May 3. Wells on the property were plugged and flammable gas called pentane was removed to reduce the chance of explosions.
Also today, the speed limit on Highway 130 between Leilani Estates and Kamalii Road was lowered to 25 mph. The reduced speed is a safety measure for drivers going over steel plates on the road.
The Hawaiian Volcano Observatory reported a new fissure this morning. Fissure 24 is between Kupono and Nohea streets in Leilani Estates. It’s not threatening any structures at this time.
The lava flow that crossed onto the Puna Geothermal Venture property has not impacted any wells. No hydrogen sulfide has been detected.
The Hawaiian Volcano Observatory said a lava flow in Leilani Estates crossed onto the Puna Geothermal Venture property overnight.
No hyrodgen sulfide has been detected as county, state and federal agencies are monitoring levels.
Volcanic gases and vog emissions may increase in areas down wind of the vents. Portions of Kamalii Road are experiencing elevated levels of sulfur dioxide.
SATURDAY, MAY 26
The lava flow in Leilani Estates has crossed Pohoiki Road slightly north of the HGPA site, the Hawaiian Volcano Observatory reports.
The flows to the south continue to enter the ocean near MacKenzie State Park. Lava is now covering 2,372 acres.
Halemaumau crater is also letting out small bursts of volcanic ash, which is slowly being pushed downwind, southwest into the Kau District.
Volcanic gases, vog and ash emissions may increase in areas down wind of the vents. Areas along Kamalii Road are experiencing elevated levels of sulfur dioxide.
Due to the volcanic activity, ash fallout may cause poor driving conditions. Residents nearby must remain alert to changes in the flow direction, and are advised to prepare for evacuation if their areas become threatened.
The well was plugged in anticipation of the lava flow, and a second well 100 feet away has also been secured, according to Civil Defense. The plugs protect against the release of gas that could turn toxic when mixed with lava.
David Mace, a spokesman for the Federal Emergency Management Agency, said safety precautions went into effect before the breach. “I think it’s safe to say authorities have been concerned about the flow of lava onto the plant property since the eruption started,” he told the Associated Press.
Puna Geothermal, owned by Nevada’s Ormat Technologies, was shut down shortly after Kilauea began spewing lava on May 3.
HILO >> Gov. David Ige announced this afternoon that lava on Hawaii island is expected to cover a few Puna Geothermal Venture wells within several hours.
Advancing lava that had been moving toward the deactivated wells Saturday eased up this morning but then picked up around midday. As of about 3 p.m. the lava was estimated to be within just a few feet of the first of three production wells, each of which are about 100 feet apart.
Ige said safety preparations to quench the wells, essentially plugging them deep below the surfact and sealing valves designed to withstand the heat from lava are expected to prevent any release of dangerous hydrogen sulfide gas.
Michael Kaleikini, PGV’s director of Hawaii affairs, said he is exponentially more confident that the wells are safe. He said the mitigation work, which also includes removing above-ground equipment on the wells and putting a layer of cinder into a pit that leads to each well, is something that the company does for maintenance. He also said it may be possible to reactivate the wells after the lava event is done even if the wells are all covered by lava.
The plant typically generates 25 percent of the electricity for Hawaii island.
Ige said there is constant monitoring for hydrogen sulfide gas, and if any were detected Hawaii County Civil Defense will put out an immediate alert using sirens, radio and going door to door to notify any residents in an affected area.
Ige though emphasized that a task force has been studying the situation and members do not believe that there will be any negative consequences to health and safety given the steps that have been taken.
Lava now covers a well at Puna Geothermal Venture (PGV); just one event in an active Sunday of eruptions in lower Puna.
In another area of Leilani Estates, lava fountains 200 feet in the air from an already active fissure, and another fissure opens up in the neighborhood.
Media has not yet been allowed into the geothermal plant but Hawaii county officials say they are monitoring the flow.
At least 20 employees are at the plant during the day. A spokesperson with PGV says they are confident there will be no explosions, and no releasing of toxic gases or chemicals from the interaction between the lava and PGV wells. PGV says all 11 wells are covered and cooled; lava is expected to pass right over them.
Governor David Ige assures, “If we felt there was a threat to the community from PGV we would inform them. We believe PGV is stable right now. The wells are quenched, and those closest to the lava flow have been quenched and plugged. Certainly, we believe that even should the lava approach and run over those well sites, it would be safe and there would be no emission of hydrogen sulfide.”
PVG Spokesperson Mike Kaleikini adds, “I just want to emphasize, from our perspective PGV doesn’t anticipate any compromise of the wells. We don’t anticipate any release of hydrogen sulfide from our geothermal wells.”
The flow of lava on PGV’s well site is fed from a fissure near Leilani Avenue and Luana Street. Sunday, that fissure spewed lava up to 200 feet into the air.
The next set of wells are in a different location about 500 yards away and at higher elevation.
Trucks are on standby to off-load and haul 200,000 pounds of a mud-like substance designed to help contain any potential explosion of the Puna Geothermal Venture that just landed in Kona after being flown in by Pacific Air Cargo. Hawaiʻi County Civil Defense Agency officials just confirmed that lava is covering one well that was successfully plugged on the PGV plant site and a second well is less than 100 feet away. They say both are stable and secured and being monitored. They say neither well is expected to release any hydrogen sulfide. At a press conference earlier today, Governor David Ige said lava encroaching upon the PGV plant site — even if it made contact with the well field — was not enough of a concern to public safety to trigger a mass mandatory evacuation. PGV officials maintain they believe they have mitigated the threat of an uncontrolled release of hydrogen sulfide if lava inundates their property and makes contact with their wells. Ten of the 11 wells were quenched — a process in which the well is injected with water to cool and depressurization it. An 11th well was plugged with bentonite clay after proving resistant to quenching efforts. We are told that mud-like substance is holding up and the pressure in the 11th well has stayed down. However, PGV officials have conceded they don’t know if hydrogen sulfide is the only possible hazard the community could face if lava interacts with their wells.
PGV Update by Mileka Lincoln
May 27, 2018, By Mileka Lincoln, Hawaii News Now via Facebook
“If we felt that there was a threat to the community from PGV, we would inform them. We believe that PGV is stable right now. The wells are quenched. Those that are closest to the lava flow have been quenched and plugged and so certainly we believe that even if the lava should approach and run over those well sites, that it would be safe — that there would be no emission of hydrogen sulfide,” said Governor David Ige during a press conference at the Hawai’i County Emergency Management Agency’s Emergency Operations Center.
Governor David Ige say state officials believe that the site is stable and the public within the immediate vicinity is not in any imminent danger. Should a mass mandatory evacuation be needed, Ige says the Hawai’i County Civil Defense Agency is prepared at a moment’s notice to trigger an alert via tsunami sirens, radio broadcast and door-to-door visits. Ige says there has been consistent monitoring of hydrogen sulfide and officials have not detected any levels at this time.
Tom Travis with the Hawai’i Emergency Management Agency just reported that lava is believed to be crossing over the top of one of four wells on Pad E within Puna Geothermal Venture — and is potentially making contact right now with KS6. This same pad is also where KS3, KS5 and KS14 are located. KS14 as you may remember is the well that was resistant to quenching and required personnel to use a mud-like substance known as barite to plug the well to cool and depressurize it. PGV officials say they are confident the plug will work. Despite lava encroaching upon the PGV plant site, officials have decided not to order an evacuation of the area. PGV officials say they are confident the community is in no danger at this time.
PGV Update by Mileka Lincoln
May 27, 2018, By Mileka Lincoln, Hawaii News Now via Facebook
Tom Travis with the Hawai’i Emergency Management Agency just reported that lava is believed to be crossing over the top of one of four wells on Pad E within Puna Geothermal Venture — and is potentially making contact right now with KS6. This same pad is also where KS3, KS5 and KS14 are located. KS14 as you may remember is the well that was resistant to quenching and required personnel to use a mud-like substance known as barite to plug the well to cool and depressurize it. PGV officials say they are confident the plug will work. Despite lava encroaching upon the PGV plant site, officials have decided not to order an evacuation of the area. According to Governor David Ige, state officials believe that the site is stable and the public within the immediate vicinity is not in any imminent danger. Should a mass mandatory evacuation be needed, Ige says the Hawai’i County Civil Defense Agency is prepared at a moment’s notice to trigger an alert via tsunami sirens, radio broadcast and door-to-door visits. Ige says there has been consistent monitoring of hydrogen sulfide and officials have not detected any levels at this time. PGV officials say they are confident the community is in no danger at this time.
PGV Update by Mileka Lincoln, Hawaii News Now
May 27, 2018, By Mileka Lincoln, Hawaii News Now via Facebook
A lava flow from Hawaii’s erupting Kilauea volcano that damaged a geothermal power station has stalled, as have lava fountains gushing 100 feet (30 meters) into the air, offering momentary relief to an area under siege for 25 days, officials said on Monday.
… Lava engulfed the heads of two wells that tap into steam and gas deep in the Earth’s core at the 38-megawatt Puna Geothermal Venture on Saturday. Its operator, Israeli-controlled Ormat Technologies Inc, said it had not been able to assess the damage.
Residents fear the wells may be explosive. Officials have said the power plant is safe but lava has never engulfed a geothermal plant anywhere in the world, leaving a measure of uncertainty.
The lava flow at PGV stalled on Monday, Hawaii County spokeswoman Janet Snyder said.
Ormat said the plant represented about 4.5 percent of its total generating capacity and that major damage or a shutdown could have an “adverse impact” on the company’s business.
Authorities have shut down the plant, removed 60,000 gallons (230,000 liters) of flammable liquid, and deactivated the wells.
Pacific Air Cargo will operate a special flight with its Boeing 747-400 from Los Angeles to Kona today with approximately 200,000 lbs of a mud-like substance — believed to be bentonite clay — designed to help contain any potential explosion of the Puna Geothermal Venture.
Speaking from Kona where he flew to support the inbound charter, Pacific Air Cargo Chief Operating Officer, Mr. Thomas Ingram said, “ We have been closely watching the disturbing images coming out of the Big Island over the past three weeks and are grateful for this opportunity to support the relief efforts in any way we can.” Adding, “ To our many friends and customers there, we send our heartfelt best wishes and pray that you all continue stay safe.”
The last update from Hawaiʻi County Civil Defense agency officials at 10 AM said no wells have been impacted and a team is working to prevent threats from developing. No hydrogen sulfide has been detected. However, Civil Defense could not tell me what would trigger a mandatory mass evacuation of the area surrounding Puna Geothermal Venture — despite the fact lava has reached the 40 acres of their operational plant site and is approaching the well field.
At last check from PGV, spokesperson Mike Kaleikini said the nearest well is about 130 feet away.
“All of the production wells nearest to the lava flow are plugged and shut in. According to HVO scientists, movement is currently stalled. As long as conditions are safe, we will have personnel on site. Primary concern is sulfur dioxide from the eruption and lava coming on site. We monitor for hydrogen sulfide and sulfur dioxide on a continuous basis. There are no hydrogen sulfide emissions from PGV wells,” said Kaleikini.
PGV officials maintain they believe they have mitigated the threat of an uncontrolled release of hydrogen sulfide if lava inundates their property and makes contact with their wells. Ten of the 11 wells were quenched — a process in which the well is injected with water to cool and depressurization it. An 11th well was plugged with bentonite clay after proving resistant to quenching efforts. We are told that mud-like substance is holding up and the pressure in the 11th well has stayed down. However, PGV officials have conceded they don’t know if hydrogen sulfide is the only possible hazard the community could face if lava interacts with their wells.
May 27, 2018, By Mileka Lincoln, Hawaii News Now via Facebook