60,000 gallons of Flammable Liquid Removed From Volcano Risk Hawaii Geothermal Plant

By United States Geological Survey [Public domain], <a href="https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Kilauea_eastern_rift_zone_fissure_eruption_May_2018.jpg">via Wikimedia Commons</a>

Kilauea eastern rift zone fissure eruption May 2018. By United States Geological Survey [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

Guest essay by Eric Worrall

Puna Geothermal Venture has removed 60,000 litres gallons of flammable Pentane from a geothermal plant in the path of the Hawaii volcanic eruption. But concerns remain that if the geothermal wells break, they could flood the neighbourhood with toxic volcanic gasses.

Volcanic activity threatens Hawaii geothermal plant long at center of resident concerns

By Breena Kerr May 12 at 6:32 AM

PAHOA, Hawaii — The dangers of building a home on the skirt of an active volcano have become quite clear in recent days, as residents here have needed to evacuate from neighborhoods around Kilauea to avoid the lava flows and toxic gases that have emerged from numerous fissures.

But the advancing molten rock — and the potential for future eruptions and ejections of boulders — threatens more than the homes. Nearby, nestled between two neighborhoods, is a geothermal plant that is home to thousands of gallons of flammable chemicals and deep wells that pose serious risks if they overheat or are breached.

Long a concern for residents and the target of lawsuits challenging its placement on an active volcano, the Puna Geothermal Venture (PGV) is a major safety issue in the wake of the eruptions and earthquakes that have shaken the Big Island for days, government officials say. Authorities worry that the seismic activity could cause gas leaks or explosions at the plant, which is near fissures that have broken the surface. Before dawn Thursday, PGV employees removed a large reserve of pentane — 60,000 gallons of highly flammable solvent used in the powering of wind turbines — because of fears that it could leak and ignite.

Residents and officials remain concerned about potential explosions and toxic gas leaks from the underground wells that provide heat for energy production. If the wells break, they could release dangerous gas — including colorless, flammable and toxic hydrogen sulfide — into the area around Leilani Estates and Lanipuna Gardens, the evacuated neighborhoods that already are choked with volcanic fumes.

“Volcanologists know there is magma under and around the geothermal well fields,” County of Hawaii Council member Jennifer Ruggles, who represents western Puna, said in a statement Thursday night. “The magma is moving and it is unpredictable. There is a real risk that the wells could be damaged.”

Read more: https://www.washingtonpost.com/national/volcanic-activity-threatens-hawaii-geothermal-plant-long-at-center-of-resident-concerns/2018/05/11/61c55c0a-5533-11e8-abd8-265bd07a9859_story.html

I’m shocked to learn geothermal plants use Pentane in such quantities. Pentane is a heavier than air unbreathable hydrocarbon gas low boiling point liquid, very similar to though slightly heavier than butane and propane. A potential suffocation risk if released in large quantities, in addition to the risk of explosion. Hydrogen sulfide is also very nasty, even small concentrations can incapacitate and kill in minutes.

Correction (EW): 1. The quantity was in gallons, not litres (h/t R. Shearer).

2. Pentane is a low boiling point liquid, whose boiling point ranges from 9C (48F) to 36C (97F) depending on isomer (h/t Phil), so less of a suffocation risk than I thought, unless heated above room temperature…


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Jacob Frank

I wonder what wind turbines need that for

Edwin Jackson

My guess is that this is a binary cycle geothermal plant that uses pentane as the low boiling point fluid in running the turbines. If that is the case removing the pentane means there will be no more geothermal energy production from this plant

Hey, we’re talking a Washington Post here, king of the world of technological ignorance.
Even their editors are ignorant.

R. Shearer

And 60,000 gallons is 3.7 times 60,000 liters.

Richard of NZ

Mr Shearer,
60,000 gallons can also be 4.55 times 60,000 litres. The use of an international standard would eliminate the chance of misinterpretation.


Edwin, you are correct. The organic Rankine cycle (ORC) produced by ORMAT uses n-pentane as its working fluid to extract heat and run turbines.


Access a description of a Rankine Cycle system on Wikipedia.


I note that the article has now been edited to remove the word “wind”, but there is no notice saying that there has been a change

John Pickens

The pentane is probably used as the heat transfer “fluid” to power the geothermal plant’s turbines, not wind turbines.

Tom in Florida

I was wondering that myself, if wind doesn’t power wind turbines why would they call it such?


It’s a mistake by the the author of the article in Washington Post. This journalist does not know the difference between geothermal and wind power plant.

The writer probably thought “turbine” is always preceded by “wind”.

Sceptical Sam

In other words: he’s talking through his turban.
That’s no more than you’d expect from the MSM.

NW sage

Actually, any responsible reporter would simply pick up the phone and ASK! Probably too much to ask for.


Wind turbines need outside electricity to operate.

Pop Piasa

Like every large turbine-generator set, wind turbines must be put on turning gear when not at operational speeds to prevent gravitational shaft distortion. A fact of power generation. The pity is that the units are on turning gear way too much for the pittance of power they produce on-line. When I worked in the power industry, units on turning gear were turning negative profit.

How long before global warming gets blamed for the erruption?

Tom in Florida

Or low solar activity.


Of course global warming isn’t the cause. Think liberal science….it was the geothermal plant that was seen as an insult to the volcano goddess and she is venting her wrath.
Makes as much sense as any global warming theory…


the earth mother farted…

Pop Piasa

I feel so sorry for Gaia, I’ve had gas that was “hot and wet feeling” before. I hope it doesn’t embarrass her in her close pass to big handsome and colorful Jupiter. Maybe it will be a turn-on, who knows?

Pop Piasa

Really though, it seems mother Gaia has been lady enough to release most of her flatulence below sea level. Farting in the water is less detectable. How great a gal she is!


Gaia doesn’t get a look in here.
This is strictly Pele’s patch

NW sage

Of COURSE global warming is the cause. There is NOTHING more global than hot orange magma from inside the earth! And nothing is more frustrating for an AGW warmist to try to figure out what humans can do to stop a field of magma that is inexorably moving towards his house – while he is standing in front of it!


Pentane is an alkane and commonly used in large scale geothermal plants. There are several in the Reno, NV area using the same refrigerant.
Domestic geothermal systems, such as mine, use Freon or similar CFC’s or HCFC’s. Pretty much the standard refrigeration cycle – just using a low boiling point fluid for heat transport efficiency.

Paul Johnson

The Breena Kerr article overstates the risks. The pentane is used as the working fluid for a secondary waste heat recovery system. The wells produce geothermal steam that drives a primary turbine and the pentane is vaporized by that hot exhaust to capture additional energy. It’s not used as a solvent; it’s a sealed system like the freon in an air conditioner but working in reverse. The idea that the geothermal wells could “break” is farfetched. Further, any hot hydrogen sulfide released would instantly ignite when contacted with oxygen to yield sulfur dioxide.


it’s a sealed system

I doubt if the pipes come in contact with 2000F lava it stays sealed for very long. Just a thought.

Paul Johnson

That’s true. If you think about it, they probably had an emergency volcano response plan to evacuate the pentane.

I’m not sure about the well diagrams, but I suspect the casing would collapse and buckle as the lava gets close. The rock expands when heated, the cement outside the casing, and the casing will reach 1500 degrees F and that should buckle and collapse it.

Tom Halla

You apparently know more about the design of the geothermal plant than the WaPo writer. “Wind” turbine? At a geothermal plant? Using pentane? It just didn’t make any sense.


Rankine Cycle system.

Paul Johnson

Apparently it often doesn’t take much to know more about a technical issue than a WaPo writer. In this case, just an RPI education and a good search engine (Microsoft Edge/Puna Geothermal).


In this case, the danger is not the leakage of pentane, but the possibility of explosion of pentane containers (60000 gallons) upon contact with hot lava.

Or leakage and then ignition. Can you say “Mother Of All Bombs”?
(Yes, it would be a rather low probability – but… Murphy was an optimist.)

old white guy

Does it matter what the heck you have in your backyard when you live on top of a volcano?


pentane — 60,000 gallons of highly flammable solvent used in the powering of wind turbines —
I suppose it’s better than running diesel generators to power lights for 24 hour solar

A C Osborn

They do not seem to be trying any construction work to try and divert any of of the magma.
Would it work?

Alan Robertson

Diversions might have some effect, if the berms/canals were big enough and properly situated.
The problem then becomes, which property is saved and which then gets buried by the diversion?
People ask: Can’t water be sprayed on the advancing lava to cool it?
The islands themselves formed as magma reached upwards from beneath the sea floor.
That’s a lot of cooling water that didn’t stop the inevitable. Fire hoses seem insignificant.

The Icelanders froze a wall of lava from the volcano Eldfell on the island of Heimaey to save a town and its harbor. They started with fire hoses, then ship borne watercannon and finally a huge network of pipes and dozens of pumps were used.

Ed Bo

John McPhee’s book The Control of Nature has a great description of that effort in Iceland for anyone interested.

You build an up hill dike, the lava coming down already destroyed that property. As for the wells, slop dirt on the well heads.

J Hope

Great place for us to live. Just shows the stupidity of humans, and just wait until an earthquake occurs. Duh!


The lava fissures run up to several dozen meters below the surface from the higher elevations, then parts of this “river” of lava break the surface with some running on top and then spreading out.
Trying to berm it would simply stop the surface. One thing you also don’t want is lava lake where if the berm is breached, then you have a really serious problem of a lot of lava all at once instead of a slow steady march down slope.


The placement of the plant is a head scratcher. Agreed the magma underneath is melted rock and one of the best sources of reliable heat in the world, but I can’t help but believe the risk of an eruption was higher than normally would be acceptable. The volcano has been active for decades.
But then some scientist probably got a grant and published a paper with erroneous assumption and/or bad math saying it was acceptable and when the general public wanted to see the data and methods to verify the conclusions, the person refused saying it was “my work” and the public didn’t have a right to see it.


They site nuclear power plants over known fault lines, don’t they???/


Nuclear plants can be designed to handle an earthquake. Whether or not it is possible to design to handle magma, it doesn’t appear that these engineers tried.


‘ . . . placement of the plant is a head scratcher’
Yeah. What’s one more explosion at this point? Would it have burned down something the volcano missed? Couldn’t they just dial 1-800-insuance? No on the spot adjusters to worry about . . . maybe their application . . . what’s 60,000 gallons of pentane worth?

Because they are not under the two vents and the fissure system is geologically minor.

Robert W Turner

It looks like the earthquake swarms are moving northeast underneath more populated areas, no bueno.
I think we could be witnessing a shift in the volcanic necks that feeds Mauna Loa since the magma chamber underneath the primary Hawaiian volcano has been emptying quickly since Kilauea has began erupting.


Who could ever have predicted that there could ever have been any risk involved in building cities and complicated industrial plants on top of an active volcano???

Joe Wagner

No more risk than building large cities in an active hurricane zone. Of course, thats still a lot of risk.

There is no such thing as earth without faults. The rating is that they cannot have moved in a half million years.


Or on top of one of the planet’s major faults…

J Hope

Yes, WWS, who would have thought of it in our highly sophisticated modern world where we know the answer to everything. Since there’s so much space on our planet for billions of humans, I think we ought to be building apartments near the top of Mt St Helens, and other volcanoes. Lovely views, and room for all of us. Baby creches provided for free. 🙂


The next hotspot in the hawaiian island chain is already offshore of the Big island, might break the surface in 10,000 yrs. Analysis of the magma shows it has separate magma chmaber to Mauna Loa.
Another problem is the potential breaking off off a large coastal piece near Kilauea. It has moved a smallish distance in one go ( 25ft) in recent times but normally its 10cm per year Earthquakes could make it all slip into ocean in one go

What is the worst possible thing that could happen? You say a 1 in 2.13e999 chance of this happening? Ok, lets go with that as the story!


A phreatomagmatic eruption when magma comes in contact with ground water [or sea water] could be very untidy. They have occurred at Kilauea.
A recent example of a phreatomagmatic eruption is Krakatoa

Keen Observer

If I read it correctly, the H2S is from the volcanism itself, but the tap wells provide an easy pathway to surface. You would think that would be part of their risk assessment during project development.

steven F

When they were drilling the wells for this geothermal plant one of the wells did hit lava.Nothing dangerous happened. The lava cam in contact with the drilling mud water mix and solidified and plugged the well. The only thing noticed at the surface were obsidian fragments and very hot water.

You want supercritical water for your plant. Very efficient.

Rich Davis

You would think that would be part of their risk assessment during project development.

K.O., There was little risk of deadly CO2 escaping through the wells. So what’s the big deal?
Move on now. Nothing to see here. Say, did you hear about the Category 8 storm off the coast of Chile? Worst storm in the past 5,000,000 years. It could end up killing trillions of people. Proof positive that global warming is getting worse!
Phewww is it just me or is it getting hot in here?

Keen Observer



I’m absolutely gobsmacked by the use of ‘neighborhoods’ in that article. From what I’ve seen in news videos, I don’t think there will be much ‘neighborhood’ to move back to. The lava flow doesn’t look all that deep until it swallows a car, and then you realize that it’s at least six feet deep, maybe seven. It may have slowed a bit, but there’s more to come. Count on it.
This eruption is not going away. The Kilauaea crater has enlarged considerably. I have been unable to understand why on earth anyone would build near an active volcano – and yes, I do know about Pompeii and how close it is to Napoli, and how often the Old Girl burps a smoke ring or two to let people know she’s just napping for now.
I just find it fascinating that anyone can be in that kind of denial, that’s all. And then I read about ‘climate science’ (snorrttt!) and it still doesn’t make any sense.

Alan Robertson

Sakurajima, Ioyama and Shinmoedaki in Japan are all erupting. Many other well known volcanoes around the globe are erupting also.
It’s doubtful if this is anything new, on a global or epochal scale.
Doomsayer crazies might get some talking points.

Alan Robertson

Should read: Many other well known volcanoes…


Johnny Cash on Plate Tectonics:
“I built my house on a Burning Ring of Fire,
They told me it would be fine, but the flames got higher and higher,
and it Burns, Burns, Burns, Burns, that Ring of Fire,
That Ring of Fire.”


I said Pompeii, when I meant VESUVIUS!!!!! Obviously, a caffeine-deficient moment in my life! My bad.


Sakurajima started erupting right after the 2011 quake. What also happened is that Fuji-san was rattled, good and hard by the same quake. It is only a matter of time between the last eruption and the next one.
But in re: the Doomsayer crazies: they go right along with the SavethePlaneters, CAGWers, warmians, ecohippies, and other people who are positive, beyond a doubt, that The Big End is coming.
Well, they’re right. It is coming – when the Great Rift in East Africa splits apart from the main continent and begins to move away into the Indian Ocean. But is a few years off. It is more likely that the New Madrid rift would rattle and roll and rock the middle of the North American continent in my lifetime.

CD in Wisconsin

“…….The Kilauaea crater has enlarged considerably. I have been unable to understand why on earth anyone would build near an active volcano – ….”.
Comedian George Carlin….lava in your livingroom….


I almost have that whole thing memorized.

Richard Patton

They were 40 miles away from the active area. I live, here in Portland Oregon, 40 miles from a recently active volcano (Mt. Hood) and am surrounded by ancient cinder cones. Am I also in a state of denial for living in a city that could find itself in the same situation as Leilani? Those residents actually had a lesser probability of losing their homes from a volcano than residents of Florida losing their homes from a hurricane. Should we also have no sympathy for those who live in Tornado Alley? Before the eruption, they a greater chance of losing their homes to a tornado than the Leilani residents had of losing their homes to an eruption. Have some empathy, stop being so holier-than-thou.


Actually many interviews with the displaced residents show they totally understood what risks there were and pretty stoically have accepted it. It’s really the luck of the draw so to speak. I do feel sorry for these people just like those decimated by tornadoes and earthquakes. It happens.
This disaster happening in slow motion is a positive however. Much better to adjust and get yourself out of harms way. Life goes on and so will they. I would hope FEMA and other organizations help out a lot. I’ve been involved in a lot of natural disasters and always try to donate both time and money to help out those impacted. Others will be doing the same.


Hilo is 40 odd miles away. While Leilani estates is some sort of rural village right on top of the rift zone which lies between the active summit and where the lava in normal times comes to the surface at the edge of the sea.


Am I also in a state of denial for living in a city that could find itself in the same situation as Leilani?
*** yes
Should we also have no sympathy for those who live in Tornado Alley?
*** yes
live in a danger zone accept the danger. but don’t beg for my sympathy, makes you look weak.


Everybody lives somewhere. Every location has it’s risks.

Crispin in Waterloo

I live in Waterloo where there is a serious and continuous danger of being subject to politically correct speech laws, a volcano of special and vested interests, and a tsunami of self-righteous whining.
The toxic atmosphere threatens everyone with intellectual suffocation while the burning fires of backbiting and calumny blaze brightly.
Add to that the danger of falling wind turbines and you realize the existential threat to life and limb is as real as the pimples of the faces of the student-led, foreign financed protesters railing against the corporations who finance the economy that makes their lives possible.

Active volcano vent is 10 miles away.

Richard Patton


Am I also in a state of denial for living in a city that could find itself in the same situation as Leilani?
*** yes
Should we also have no sympathy for those who live in Tornado Alley?
*** yes
live in a danger zone accept the danger. but don’t beg for my sympathy, makes you look weak.

I would much prefer to be thought of as weak than heartless. You appear from your post to be a self-centered heartless jerk. I won’t make that judgment, it is possible you are just having trouble expressing yourself. It is good that self-centered heartless jerks are a minority on this planet, otherwise, we would be truly living in Hell.

steven F

The entire island is a volcano. There are two other major volcanos on the island Unlike Kilauea is the most active with almost constant activity. Mauan Loa has erupted about 30 times in the last 200 years. Hualālai appears to have erupted 3 times in the last 1000 years. There is also Mauna Kea, kohala but they appear to be extinct As the earths crust moves away from the hot spot Hualāla will go extinct and then Mauan Loa. i


Anyway one cuts it, it sure looks like those on the big island are in for a rough ride. Just how rough remains to be seen. A massive Kilauea eruption has the potential to cause a lot more than just the SE end of the island to be at significant risk if it turns out the current eruption is just it clearing it’s throat before a main event that is more massive than the authorities are publically predicting. Despite the excellent monitoring of the volcano and great concentration of experts who have been researching this mountain; I wonder if though they are predicting a major eruption, the authorities are downplaying the potential risk as they try to balance the threat assessment against the damage to the tourist industry that the island relies upon to a great extent. If that is the case there is a real potential here for the scenario like that portrayed in the move “Dante’s Inferno” to play out.

steven F

An eruption like Pinatubo, Krakatoa, or Mt Saint Helens is not possible. In those volcanos the lava had enough gas in it that it behaves more like explosives. When the volcano’s vent is unplugged millions of tones of rock literally exposes all at once. The lava in hawaii doesn’t have a lot of gas in it so it behave more like a liquid. It cannot explode. However if the lava level drops below the ground water level you get a reaction that is much like dropping sodium into water. t behaves more like a slow burn than an explosive. Since the reaction is slower energy is slowly released instead of all at once. It will still be spectacular but most of the hazard will be concentrated in an area only within a mile or so of the lave. Ash will be shoot about a mile up and then drift away.


The worst that can happen is “rift block failure” which could cause a significant landslide and possibly tsunami.
“A number of large coastal fault scarps (palis), some as high as 500 meters, parallel the Puna rift zone and are the tops of an extensive fault zone along which substantial movement has occurred in the past. Large fault blocks are tilted back, by as much as 8 degrees towards the rift zone, indicating a pattern of gradual subsidence. This continuous subsidence has created the feature known as the Hilina Fault System.”

Dave in the UP

Crosspatch, you nailed it. If that rift lets go the whole South Slope of the Big Island could slide into the ocean . That’s several cubic miles of material hitting the water. If that happened all the populated areas in Hawaii would be inundated and the entire Pacific Rim would get really wet.

Not several cubic miles, several hundred cubic miles.


Also this reference, see the penultimate paragraph. The worst case scenario would be failure of the Hilina Slump.

Paul Blase

Didn’t something similar cause the last tsunami off of Japan?


The last tsunami to hit Japan was caused by an earthquake at the nearby subduction zone.


Is that where the Big Crack or Great Crack is located?
How much additional tonnage is Kilauea adding to that? And how much is being eroded from underneath by the magma coming out of Kilauea?
No one is addressing any of that, as far as I can see.

Eric Stevens

For a graphic illustration of what might happen see https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=uPIx0B9O8Us

The Washington Post has made an error in its article when they state “60,000 gallons of highly flammable solvent used in the powering of wind turbines” — the geothermal plant does not have “wind” turbines. It has turbine driven generators — just like a oil fired generating plant uses steam to drive turbines turning generators.
PGV works like this:
“PGV is a geothermal energy conversion plant bringing steam and hot liquid up through underground wells. The hot liquid (brine) is not used for electricity at this time. The steam is directed to a turbine generator that produces electricity.
The exhaust steam from this turbine is used to vaporize (heat) an organic working fluid, which drives a second turbine, generating additional electricity. The condensed steam from the organic fluid heat exchanger is re-injected into the ground through reinjection wells along with the brine.”
I suggest that the “organic working fluid” is the PENTANE spoken of.

Pentane is a heavier than air unbreathable hydrocarbon gas, very similar to though slightly heavier than butane and propane.
Pentane usually refers to n-pentane which is a liquid at room temperature, b.p. 36ºC. The low boiling liquid is used as a working fluid to extract heat from the hot water from the thermal wells to drive a turbine to generate electricity, it has nothing to do with ‘wind turbines’. The Hydrogen sulphide is emitted from the rocks themselves and will react with water or oxygen to produce sulphur, I believe there is a suggestion to pump water down the wells to cool them off and remove H2S. The H2S levels are routinely monitored:

R. Shearer

Yes, it’s a liquid at standard conditions and it’s incorrect to refer to it as a gas, especially in reference to gallons.


Volcanic unrest in the lower East Rift Zone of Kīlauea Volcano continues. While no lava has been emitted from any of the 15 fissure vents since May 9, earthquake activity, ground deformation, and continuing high emission rates of sulphur dioxide indicate additional outbreaks of lava are likely. The location of future outbreaks is not known with certainty, but could include areas both uprift (southwest) and downrift (northeast) of the existing fissures, or resumption of activity at existing fissures. Communities downslope of these fissures could be at risk from lava inundation.

One of the potential disasters of this eruption, from what I can tell, is the magma level in the Crater falling below the water table. It has dropped over 300m so far, and , and, if it comes in contact with a substantial
amount of water, would generate one or more enormous steam explosions.


That was brought up by a geologist on the news last night: if the level drops below the water table, the resulting steam explosion (nasty!!!) can launch rocks the size of refrigerators up to 5 miles into the air. And there were tourists there, taking pictures of the volcano behind the geologist while she was talking.


Darwin Award wannabes.


Not sure what crater they are talking about , but main summit area of Kiluea is 4000 ft or 1200m. Volcanic rocks etc dont generally support a high water table anyway

Tuesday is the New Moon, and the next probable point for increased quake activity. All of this started just prior to the Full Moon on April 30th. The mid Moon in between was also a point of higher activity when the last group of new vents opened.


It really depends on whether or not the Moon crosses that geographical point on the map.

J Hope

Interesting comment about the Moon, goldminor. Would it not also depend on whether the New Moon was at perigee? Nearer to the ecliptic? Any links you could provide?

I have never followed the position of the Moon in relation to where any given stronger quake strikes. This site would have that type of information. …http://www.moonconnection.com/moon_phases_calendar.phtml
I have been consistently watching the daily USGS quake map since the Great Tohoku Quake in March 2011. That is what got my interest in the first place. I started keeping a daily log at Newsvine.com some months after that. Mainly, I started keeping track of the change in the number of quakes per 24 hour period, of 2.5 mag or greater.
From there it wasn’t long before I noticed that it appeared as if there was a correlation with the lunar phases from New to Full. I even tried my hand at predicting with some success, and one spot on prediction. I gave up on that as I came to realize that it was too random a process. The Moon correlation was persistent though.
Which brings me to current conditions. Around the first week of April the quake map moved out of sync with the typical patterns which I have noted over the years. Shortly after that I picked up on a claim by the USGS that April is the prime month for 6.0+ mag quakes, followed by May as second most prevalent month for larger quakes. Tying that thought in with what I see as the current state of the climate as one where we have entered into a cyclical solar induced cold trend, then it is possible that this explains why the 24 rate has gone out of sync for the last 2 months. At the moment it would be hard for someone to take note of the lunar effects on the daily/monthly 24 hour rate of change. As the daily quake map shows a higher than normal pattern of quakes that are 4.5 mag or greater and are classified with bold type by USGS, indicating a stronger quake. You can see that here, …https://earthquake.usgs.gov/earthquakes/map/#%7B%22autoUpdate%22%3A%5B%22autoUpdate%22%5D%2C%22basemap%22%3A%22satellite%22%2C%22feed%22%3A%221day_m25%22%2C%22listFormat%22%3A%22default%22%2C%22mapposition%22%3A%5B%5B-78.49055166160312%2C11.6015625%5D%2C%5B78.49055166160312%2C390.234375%5D%5D%2C%22overlays%22%3A%5B%22plates%22%5D%2C%22restrictListToMap%22%3A%5B%22restrictListToMap%22%5D%2C%22search%22%3Anull%2C%22sort%22%3A%22newest%22%2C%22timezone%22%3A%22utc%22%2C%22viewModes%22%3A%5B%22list%22%2C%22map%22%5D%2C%22event%22%3Anull%7D

Lastly, watch the next two days in respect to any changes in Hawaii with their ongoing crisis. If it is going to abate or worsen, then there should be some sign of that between tomorrow and Wednesday.

The 24 hour quake rate dropped today to around 50/24hr. That is almost half as many as compered to the rate over the last 16 days. Half of the quakes are global, and the other half is in Hawaii. The global half at 25/24hr is typical behavior. The drop in the numbers may be indicating that the worst is over in Hawaii, and that global numbers will fall back to the average rate of around 30/24hr period. However, it isn’t typical to see the rate drop before tomorrows New Moon. That is still out of sync behavior. Tomorrows action will give a clue as to the direction.

The 24 rate jumped up today. That is what I would expect to see at the New Moon. There is one spot at the northwest corner of Madagascar which has been experiencing strong quakes over the last several days. In the 7 years of observing, I do not remember seeing quakes strike at that particular location, related to the Rift of Africa?. This could be a signal of a bigger quake being imminent for this location.
Tomorrow should be an active day all around as the rate of Hawaiian quakes has risen sharply today from the low of yesterday, about 80%. Global quakes have also increased by about 50% since the lower rate seen on Monday.

Here’s a shot showing how close the plant is to a fissure.
As far as the risk from the pentane was concerned it would have been the same as a gas station, there’s one not far away, I wonder if they’ve emptied it?


If 60,000 gallons of about 120 tonnes, it like about 10 gas stations.

I was going by the original title which said 60,000 liters. Even so a gas station is not a negligible risk by comparison. The data I’ve seen says that a typical gas station stores between 30,000 and 40,000 gals in two tanks. The gas station near the volcano looks small so its storage capacity may be a bit lower.


I don’t see a tank farm for the 60,000 gals
I see a tank that may be 6000 gal
Too many zeros in article?

Loren Wilson

Pentane is the working fluid of choice for secondary heat recovery in geothermal energy production. In a coal-fired power plant, the steam is usually heated to near 1000°F (540°C). Geothermal wells produce water or steam at much lower temperature and pressure, so the steam generated has less enthalpy (energy). This steam is passed through a heat exchanger to make steam for the primary turbine. It contains too many particles and minerals to send to the turbine directly. To recover more heat, the working fluid is then passed through another heat exchanger to boil pentane (normal boiling point of 36°C) and extract more work out of it before returning the water to the well. I am shocked, shocked that the geothermal power plant would be located in a geothermally hot area!!! Do these green Hawaiians think that a geothermal power plant can be located elsewhere? I watched an interview with the plant manager. People asked him if he was going to close the wells (fill them with concrete). His answer was “no”. He pointed out that the 6.9 earthquake did no damage to the wells, so he was confident that they were safe. They did plan to shut in the wells by filling them with water.


I remember when the Central Soya plant in Indianapolis had a hexane leak. Hexane is used in extracting the oils from the processed beans. Heavier than air and highly explosive. It leaked into the surrounding neighborhood and BAM! They concluded a passing car with a faulty ignition was the initiating force. Blew some of houses in the old neighborhood surrounding the plant off their foundations. Did a lot of work in and for that plant in the years before that explosion.

John F. Hultquist

One thing about this eruptive activity is that folks will become better educated about how volcanoes differ, and how the different sorts work.
For those that already know some of this, we might learn something new.
The placement of the steam plant at this location is understandable.
Neighborhoods — not so much.


Worrying about the extra hazards presented by the geothermal plant is silly.


How is it silly? That’s extremely irresponsible to say something like that.


As far as I can tell, the extra danger presented by the geothermal plant is tiny in comparison with the dangers presented by the volcano itself.
The headline of this story refers to 60,000 liters of flammable gas. That’s 60 cubic meters. Compare that with the 500 to 10,000 cubic meters of sulfur dioxide that the volcano emits every day. link
People are crummy at evaluating risk. link It’s always been that way. The Three Sillies

Loren Wilson

The 60,000 liters of pentane are liquid, while the SO2 is measured as standard cubic feet of gas (usually at 1 atmosphere of pressure and 0°C, unless you work for an evil oil company then the temperature is 60°F) so this is much less mass. SO2 is extremely toxic but has excellent warning properties. It produces a strong choking sensation well below its lethal concentration and people flee if they are able to. H2S is equally as toxic but tends to desensitize your nose after exposure to less than deadly levels, so you don’t notice when the concentration increases.


Look who’s scary now.

“Long a concern for residents and the target of lawsuits challenging its placement on an active volcano, the Puna Geothermal Venture (PGV) is a major safety issue”
I can understand why a geothermal plant might be built on an active volcano. Harder is why “residents” chose to build there.


It’s a volcanic island. They don’t have a lot of options.

Joe Armstrong

Cheap real estate. Read that residents can get a large ocean view lot for about $10,000. Seems the risk is reflected in the price and people made a conscientious decision to buy and live there.
Here’s a like to the geothermal plant site. https://www.hawaiianelectric.com/clean-energy-hawaii/clean-energy-facts/renewable-energy-sources/geothermal/puna-geothermal-venture-(pgv)

May 17 will be an increase in volcanic activity.


Okay, ren, but WHERE will this increase take place? It’s more believable if you are even a little specific about it.
Is that an increase locally, or an increase worldwide?
Just asking, because the numbers of volcanoes in active eruptions now started going up about 18 months ago, and not just on the Ring of Fire or in Japan. I mean globally.
There are new eruptions sites that didn’t exist 28 months ago, and old, long-dormant volcanoes that have been showing signs of activity for about 3 years now.
When you say something as non-specific as ‘an increase in volcanic activity’, it doesn’t mean anything.


Ooo! What if the total volume of SO2 increased exponentially on a global scale due to an increase in the number of long-term eruptions everywhere?
Would that and an inactive Sun shut of the ‘global warmiun’ prognosticators?

However, the volcano observatory now warns that as the magma column in the summit reservoir connecting to the lava lake continues to drain and drop, the risk of potentially large explosions increases. This will be especially true if the surface of the magma column drops beneath the ground water table under the caldera floor, which would allow water to seep into the hot conduit, and likely trigger violent steam-driven (phreatic) explosions, perhaps similar to those observed in 1924, when violent phreatic activity destroyed the pre-1924 lava lake and excavated the Halema’uma’u crater as it was known after 1924.

Date & time: Sat, 12 May 18:06:47 UTC – 60 minutes ago
Magnitude: 3.2
Depth: 6.0 km
Epicenter latitude / longitude: 19.37°N / 154.97°W [Map]
Nearest volcano: Kilauea (34 km)
Primary data source: EMSC


Doesnt make sense Ren. Its a long standing source of magma, there isnt going to be groundwater anywhere near the summit of Kilauea. Volcanic rock is perfect for draining surface water away, likely to the ocean

No. Kilauea is draining out because it is going into the rift system. So this is the end of this episode.


Stop being cynical. This is ‘free energy’. And once the data has been smoothed and homogenised with other volcanoes you will see that the lava is pure denialism. there is no lava


From the article: Hydrogen sulfide is also very nasty, even small concentrations can incapacitate and kill in minutes.
Despite what you wrote, that’s not even a fair warning statement for H2S. I deal with H2S in the Canadian prairie, and I can tell you that when the warning siren goes off, you better run FAST. If you gulp a high concentration slug of H2S in the air, you’re DOA.


Some neighbors argue that a geothermal plant that uses dangerous chemicals never should have been built in Pahoa.
“This is one of the most unstable pieces of land on the entire planet, and they knew that,” said Robert Petricci, president of the Puna Pono Alliance watchdog group, who lives near the plant. “They built it anyway to make money.”
The PGV has irked residents for decades, even as it produces clean energy for the island. The plant has nine wells that run as deep as 8,000 feet, according to Wil Okabe, managing director for the County of Hawaii. The wells allow steam and hot liquid to rise and power turbines, but they have the potential to explode. They normally produce up to 38 megawatts of electricity, which is sold to Hawaii Electric Light Co.
Who would have thought that drilling 2450 metres into an active volcano could have caused problems?

Smart Rock

“This is one of the most unstable pieces of land on the entire planet, and they knew that,” said Robert Petricci, president of the Puna Pono Alliance watchdog group, who lives near the plant.

And he chose to build a house on one of the most unstable pieces of land on the entire planet, AND HE KNEW THAT. What an idiot.

They built it anyway to make money

It not only makes money, but it makes 38 MW of clean, renewable energy. Sounds quite reasonable to me. Good for “them”

Smart Rock

Despite his inability to perceive the inconsistency in his views, Mr Petricci has managed – against all obstacles – to articulate the fundamental principle of the capitalist system. I doubt if he appreciates the profundity of his insight.

Ve2 May 12, 2018 at 2:19 pm
Some neighbors argue that a geothermal plant that uses dangerous chemicals never should have been built in Pahoa.
“This is one of the most unstable pieces of land on the entire planet, and they knew that,” said Robert Petricci, president of the Puna Pono Alliance watchdog group, who lives near the plant. “They built it anyway to make money.”

Just like the gas station nearby which poses a similar risk, I wonder if he protested that?


I would like to see 60000 gallons of pentane ignite . Would make for a spectacular explosion. Just wouldn’t want to be too close

Location, location, location…
This sounds like the same engineering team who put the emergency cooling water systems at the Fukushima nuclear plant down near the beach, within reach of Japan’s frequent tsunamis.
Fearless Fukushiming Leader:
We’ll put the emergency cooling water systems down near the beach – what could go wrong?
Newby on Team:
What about tsunami’s?
Fearless Fukushiming Leader:
Screw it! It’s time for lunch. Are you a team player or not?
Hai ! ( OK! )
Oh Fukushima!


Well my country has been generating electricity from geothermal sources since 1957.
Interesting reading and it appears that regular expansion and new plants have been created without fuss or bother.
Well I looked to see if that word appeared on the above website and came across this which may help to explain the use of pentane. http://nzgeothermal.org.nz/generation_technologies/


I was there in about 1990. The area smelled of SO2. Smoke drifted up from the ground behind a roped off area. The earth was noticeably warm. In the distance, steam rose up from the ocean where magma was surfacing on the ocean floor. My thoughts were, what the hell am I doing standing on top of a pool of magma?
On my drive down, trusted guidebook in hand, I detoured off the main road to see what the book described as, “the quintessential fishing village.” There was no standing structure. The small grid of streets were criss-crossed by black ribbons of solidified lava. The book had been written eight years earlier.
It is wrong to equate this with living in areas prone to such things as hurricanes. Moving here would be like moving into a house in an area under a hurricane warning. The threat is real, obvious, and clearly imminent. And no one can claim they didn’t know the risk.

R. Shearer

You may have smelled elemental sulfur, odoriferous, but not highly toxic. When it is hot and is oxidized, SO2 is formed, which is highly irritating and has a noxious sharp odor. Hydrogen sulfide can be present, may be deadly, and is the smell of rotten eggs. Under some conditions, H2S and SO2 react with each other to make elemental sulfur and water.

From an earlier Big Island eruption. (Note the boats.)

Washington Post has updated/corrected the original article …
Before dawn Thursday, PGV employees removed a large reserve of pentane — 60,000 gallons of highly flammable solvent used in the powering of turbines — because of fears that it could leak and ignite.

Peta of Newark

Am still grappling with why the need to use something/anything like pentane to power turbines – UNLESS the primary heat-source is not hot enough to boil water.
The efficiency (work extractable) of any heat engine depends on how big the difference between the input and output temperatures = a-la Carnot
The working fluid you put in there is irrelevant. Subject to the boiling water proviso.
So why pentane.
[Its a real hot house of activity round here in North Lincs and Notts – what about this…]

Saturday, 1 June 1974. It killed 28 people and seriously injured 36 out of a total of 72 people on site at the time. The casualty figures could have been much higher, if the explosion had occurred on a weekday, when the main office area would have been occupied



“Earthquake activity, ground deformation, and continuing high emission rates of sulphur dioxide in the area indicate additional outbreaks of lava are likely as this eruption continues. The location of future outbreaks could include areas both uprift (southwest) and downrift (northeast) of the existing fissures, or, existing fissures can be reactivated. Communities downslope of these fissures could be at risk from lava inundation.”

Fred the Ott

Paul Johnson stated;
“That’s true. If you think about it, they probably had an emergency volcano response plan to evacuate the pentane.”
Probably a horrible plan. Governor Ige had to get involved to get them off their arse to finally start moving the pentane.

Eh, bruddah, no worries. We fix’um bumbye.

Plant sits on a cinder cone so lava slopped downhill will deflect around the plant.

Rift eruptions to the west of the plant and east of the plant, but not north of it. This does produce the possibility that the plant has drawn out enough heat from the system that eruptions around the plant are unlikely to occur.