We must be willing to consider what might at first seem absurd and unworkable

Sunday, April 9th, 2023

A recent paper proposes the deployment of volcanic geothermal energy from the Yellowstone Caldera Supervolcano, using a completely new copper-based engineering approach:

The proposed ideas, if implemented, would allow the production of green, 100% emission-free energy for the United States of America and possibly beyond, to last the years and centuries to come, while having the great added benefit of forestalling the Yellowstone Supervolcano from potentially ever erupting again.

To consider such an implementation, the reader is asked to be willing to think big and bold. We must be willing to consider what might at first seem absurd and unworkable, only later to realize that it is absolutely feasible and realistic to implement, with even today’s current technologies, and with some imagination.


By utilizing thermally conductive copper pillars on an unprecedented scale, this paper proposes a means to draw up this Supervolcano’s mighty energy reserve from within the Earth, to superheat steam for spinning turbines at sufficient speed on a sufficient scale and number, to power the entire USA, from a single, multi-redundant facility that utilizes the star topology in a grid array pattern. In so doing, over time, bleed-off of sufficient energy from the Supervolcano’s magma chamber will potentially forestall this Supervolcano from ever erupting again. In 2017, NASA conducted a study to determine the feasibility of preventing the Yellowstone Supervolcano from erupting. The results of this study showed that cooling the magma chamber by 35% would be enough to forestall another eruption.


This paper proposes to make a power generation facility on the Yellowstone Caldera, with a satellite view shown in Fig. 1 from Google Maps, capable of generating well over twice the projected electrical energy usage in the year 2050 of 5.5 Quadrillion Watt hours for the entire United States of America. We therefore assume well over 11 Quadrillion Watt hours of electrical energy over the course of one full year used by the USA.


The Arabelle steam turbines run on high pressure, superheated steam. Steam is made from water and heat. Shoshone Lake is next to the Yellowstone Caldera [37]. This fresh water lake covers over 8000 acres and has a maximum depth of over 200 ft. Water from this lake could be used for the steam production. In the proposed design laid out in this paper, all water taken from the lake would be returned to the lake, cleaner than it was originally, at ambient temperature, and free of any contamination, as all major plumbing in this proposed design is made with copper, a standard plumbing material. As with all plumbing, scaling buildup on the inside of the piping and corrosion resistance on the outside of the plumbing in contact with the Earth are important considerations for the long-term life, water flow performance, maintenance of all necessary thermal conduction and heat transfer capabilities of the piping. To prevent scaling buildup on the inside of the plumbing, the water passing through these pipes must first be demineralized. All extracted minerals will be returned to the lake with the returning water, so as not to affect the lake’s chemistry, and thus the aquatic inhabitance of the lake. External corrosion resistance of the copper plumbing in contact with the Earth will be obtained through minimally adequate gold (with a nickel interface) plating, as gold is nearly impervious to corrosion. By taking these measures, there should be no degradation of geothermal energy extraction over time.

Based on numerous studies, and also reported by the U.S. Geological Survey the temperature in Yellowstone Supervolcano’s magma chamber is approximately 1475°F, and its size is approximately 40 km long by 80 km across, similar in size to the flat, overlying Yellowstone Caldera. The Yellowstone Caldera is large enough for all of the required Arabelle steam turbines and all other required hardware and plumbing to fulfill the proposal set forth in this paper. In terms of depth, the top of the magma chamber is 8 km below the surface, and the bottom of the magma chamber is 16 km below the surface.

In the most general terms, this paper proposes to use metallic thermal conduction as a means to transport the tremendous thermal energy flux of the Yellowstone Supervolcano magma chamber to the surface for utilization. Looking at the selected material of copper, reveals that its melting point is 1983°F, which is well above the internal temperature of the Yellowstone Supervolcano magma chamber. At this temperature, copper has a thermal conductivity value of 350 W/(m x °K). Copper is an excellent metallic thermal conductor, lacking in corrosion resistance. The use of gold (with a nickel interface) plating on copper that may be in contact with the Earth is recommended. This plating has a melting point at or higher than the copper it is meant to protect. Furthermore, this minimalist plating method, used extensively in the electronics industry, provides superior corrosion protection while imposing relatively minimal impact on the facility cost, the overall thermal conduction, and heat transfer performance of the geothermal energy extraction process.


As the magma chamber is 8 km below the surface, 8 kilometer-long copper cylinders (mostly hollow) would be required for this work. We propose that these cylinders be made in 10 m long segments that interconnect with one another at their ends.


As water is pumped down the center bore hole under pressure, high pressure, superheated steam would be forced to return up through each of the surrounding smaller diameter bore holes of the copper cylinder. This returning steam would exit the copper cylinders at the top, above the surface of the caldera, and be piped through the Arabelle steam turbines generating electrical power. After exiting the steam turbines, this exhausted steam would then be collected and cooled with a water condensing network. The re-condensed water would be brought to ambient temperature before returning the water back to Shoshone Lake. This entire process would be done in parallel for all 100 of the copper cylinders simultaneously. In so doing, all 1000 Arabelle stream turbines would be generating power at the same time. This electrical power would be put onto the nationwide power grid, supplying electrical energy to the entire USA, and possibly beyond.


  1. bob sykes says:

    The pipes will require every gram of copper on the three inner planets plus the asteroid belt. Construction will take 1,000 years, and it will cost $1,000 trillion. But at -10% apr, it will pay for itself in 10 days.

  2. Ezra says:

    Stop thinking about alternative sources of energy. Just use the coal, oil, natural gas USA has in abundance.

  3. A look at the full text of the paper reveals that they’re completely clueless.

    One of the main limitations of geothermal is that when you put a pipe down and extract heat, the heat is *gone*; more heat then has to diffuse in from the surroundings. So making the pipe out of copper, with its high thermal conductivity, is a total waste: the conductivity that matters is the conductivity of the surroundings. Do they address this? Not at all.

    Oh, and as for the idea of gold-plating the outside of the tubes to protect them… they should connect with an oil field roughneck sometime and ask him what he thinks the chances are of lowering a 8-kilometer-long pipe into the ground without scratching through gold plating. The reply would be highly amusing to witness.

    Considered, yes. Considered, and rejected.

  4. Phil B says:

    It lost me when it made the claim that removing heat from the magma chamber would potentially forestall the next eruption. It goes on to say that the limits of the magma chamber give a volume of 25,600 cubic kilometers of magma which is 6,141 cubic miles. This claim is similar to saying a cupful of water onto the Hawaiian volcano would potentially stop the lava flow during an eruption.

    Or is this another attempt by mankind to cool the earth globally?

  5. Jim says:

    I applaud Thomas Arciuolo and Miad Faezipour for writing something truly interesting enough to talk about.

  6. Jim says:

    Phil: “Or is this another attempt by mankind to cool the earth globally?”


  7. Wang Wei Lin says:

    There is nothing more dangerous than people who have a messiah complex.

  8. Altitude Zero says:

    Because messing around with a supervolcano is just bound to lead to something good…

  9. Michael van der Riet says:

    Altitude Zero but how much better if we could get radioactive spiders involved?

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