Geologist Says No Link Between Geothermal Drilling And La Soufriere Eruption

(CMC) — Linking geothermal energy exploration to the eruption of La Soufriere is like expecting a skin-deep injection to puncture one’s heart, geologist Professor Richard Robertson has said in response to questions about whether the drilling on the volcano’s slopes last year could have resulted in the current eruptions.

“In the case of geothermal, both at this volcano and other volcanoes, there is no indication scientifically that they should affect each other in terms of getting a volcano going. And certainly, in this case, we don’t think it did,” he said.

In 2019, the government dug three wells as part of the geothermal energy project, but each failed to produce the required permeability. Then, in December 2020, after almost 42 years of inactivity, La Soufriere began erupting effusively, then exploded on April 9 — an eruption that continues to date.

In one of his daily updates on the state-owned NBC Radio, Robertson was asked if there was any link between the geothermal drilling and the eruption of the volcano.

“I think even before the Soufriere was active we were being asked about it and I have made the analogy that the geothermal — I look at it in the context of the human body and the source for the volcanism — is like deep beneath the surface of your body, sort of your heart, right inside the core of your structure while the way in which you were tapping into geothermal is really tapping into the hot rocks that is heating fluids that is above that.

“So, it is a bit like sticking a needle into your skin and thinking that that needle sticking into your skin is somehow going to touch your heart. That’s how the dimensions are,” he explained.

Robertson further explained that during the geothermal activity, the deepest well “went down less than three kilometres (1.86 miles), 3,000 metres (9,842 feet)”, while “the thing” that is driving the eruptions is at least 10 kilometres (six miles) beneath the surface of the earth.

Professor Robertson said that he understood the concern that there could be a connection. But he stressed that “there are lots of things that happen together that are coincidental and not causative”.