Advances and challenges in continental scientific drilling

Category Other
Group GSI.IR
Location International Geological Congress,oslo 2008
Author Emmermann, Rolf; Harms, Ulrich
Holding Date 29 September 2008

More than twenty major international drilling projects have been executed to date within the framework of International Continental Scientific Drilling Program, ICDP. The program focuses on challenging themes of geoscientific and socio-economic relevance such as geodynamics and natural hazards, volcanic systems and thermal regimes, Earth’s history and climate change, impact structures, unconventional resources, and the deep biosphere. ICDP co-funds drilling operations from membership fees paid by meanwhile 16 member countries. In addition, it provides technical assistance through an Operational Support Group while research grants are contributed through other agencies. This concept of commingled funding and international cost sharing, in addition to the joint international character of the science and sharing of technological capabilities, contributed to the great achievements.
A key to the success of the program is that it provides a necessary start-up financing for cost-intensive large-scale projects at locations of global significance and that completely new technological approaches can be tackled to reach high-priority Earth science targets. Outstanding examples include drilling through and coring of active fault zones to elucidate fundamental processes of earthquake cycling in the San Andreas Fault in California, the Chelungpu Fault of Taiwan, or in the Gulf of Corinth, Greece. Other in situ studies aim at active volcanic processes at the Unzen Volcano in Japan, on Hawaii, and at supercritical volcanic fluids on Iceland. With smart, cost-effective drilling, paleoclimate evolution is being studied in lakes such as Titicaca, Malawi, Bosumtwi, Qinghai, and Peten Itza. And the study of cratering processes and environmental response of complex meteorite impacts of various sizes such Chicxulub, Bosumtwi and Chesapeake Bay. ICDPs research topics for the forthcoming years will be: Climate Dynamics and Global Environments, Impact Craters and Processes, the Geobiosphere, Active Faults, Hotspot Volcanoes and Large Igneous Provinces, Convergent Plate Boundaries and Collision Zones, and Natural Resources. Future technological challenges in continental drilling are improvement of safe drilling, intact uncontaminated coring of unstable formations and the development and deployment of long-term monitoring facilities in hostile environments at depth. Since 2008 the GFZ Potsdam owns a newly developed flexible drill rig with a depth capacity of c. 5000 m that fulfills all major requirements for continental scientific drilling.