Progress made in securing Puna Geothermal Plant, but work is 'no - Hawaii News Now - KGMB and KHNL

Progress made in securing Puna Geothermal Plant, but work is 'not done yet'

This photo shows how close the lava outbreaks are to the Puna Geothermal Venture plant (Image: Mick Kalber) This photo shows how close the lava outbreaks are to the Puna Geothermal Venture plant (Image: Mick Kalber)
PUNA, BIG ISLAND (HawaiiNewsNow) -

Authorities have already taken action to remove 60,000 gallons of pentane gas from the Puna Geothermal Venture property, but as new fissures from the Kilauea volcano open up nearby, the safety concerns linger.

On Thursday, PGV officials issued a statement to provide an update on the status of the facility.

"First and foremost, our thoughts and prayers are with those affected by the Leilani volcanic eruption. Safety has been and always will be PGV’s top priority and we are sparing no resources to ensure the safety of our employees and of the surrounding communities.

After the frequency of earthquakes increased dramatically, plant personnel closed and secured the facility per the emergency response plan. As part of that, we have done the following:

• We shut down the power plant and the geothermal wells have all been shut down.

• All pentane, a flammable fluid used in the electricity generation process, has been removed from the site and is safely stored off-site.

Plant personnel is on site around the clock, monitoring and ensuring safety. PGV personnel have been and continue to be in close communications with the Hawaii Emergency Management Administrator, Civil Defense and Mayor Harry Kim regarding the PGV facility. PGV is supplying portable air monitors to the first responders in the area and working with Pu'uhonua O Puna and American Red Cross aiding in disaster relief."

The Hawaii Emergency Management Agency said the shut down process to kill three active wells at the site began earlier this week.

Tom Travis, director of HI-EMA, said the process involves pumping cold water into the wells.

“The danger's gone as long as we maintain the wells killed,” he said. “However, there's also danger of lava flows going across the top of the well, which now we would no longer have the way to put cold water over the well, so the next step is to put plugs after the well's killed and put plugs in the well above the geothermal resource."

On Thursday, Gov. David Ige said the process overall is "not done yet." 

He added, "The injection has actually been started and is ongoing now. You know, they are monitoring what the impacts of that injection is and we are continuing to talk about the plugs and the follow on activities that's required as part of that program."

Authorities hope to have the process completed by the end of the week.

Hawaii County Councilmember Jennifer Ruggles, who represents the area, said if the wells are breached, they can release dangerous gas into the air, including flammable and toxic hydrogen sulfide.

PGV is a geothermal energy conversion plant that produces about a quarter of the island’s energy.

Area residents were told repeatedly that all production had been shut down after the very first fissure outbreak within Leilani Estates nearly two weeks ago. 

Last week, crews removed all pentane gas from the site – a day after Gov. David Ige signed a supplemental emergency proclamation.

This story may be updated.

Copyright 2018 Hawaii News Now. All rights reserved.

Powered by Frankly