Although the sustainable utilisation of natural resources is central to Landvirkjun’s operations, the Company is also committed to reducing greenhouse gas emissions (GHG). Climate change is one of the most difficult environmental challenges facing the world today and Landsvirkjun is determined to be at the forefront of reducing GHG emissions. Landsvirkjun intends to become a carbon neutral company.
Iceland is a member of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (agreed to in 1992) and is committed to taking action on limiting GHG emissions and increasing carbon binding measures. Total GHG emissions in Iceland, in 2011 (according to the 2013 National Inventory Report) were 4,413 Gg CO2-eq (not including land use, changes in land use or forestry). Landsvirkjun’s contribution was approx. 1.3% of the total emissions, without the inclusion of carbon binding measures but 0.8% when carbon binding measures were included.
In 2014, Landsvirkjun will work towards creating a more comprehensive and long-term action plan on climate change.
Summary of GHG emissions from Landsvirkjun’s operations
The largest source of greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions can be traced to Landsvirkjun’s geothermal power stations and the reservoirs at the Company’s hydropower stations. Other emissions can be traced to the burning of fossil fuels, air travel and waste disposal. The total quantity of GHG emissions from Landsvirkjun’s operations in 2013 was approx. 49 thousand tonnes of CO2 equivalent. This is 12% less than in 2012 and 20% less than in 2009. The actual decrease could be greater as the emissions from air travel were calculated in 2012, but only estimated between 2008 and 2011.
The ‘carbon footprint’ is defined as the total amount of GHG’s released into the atmosphere as a result of anthropogenic activities or a calculation of the GHG emissions released directly and indirectly by our daily activities. The carbon footprint can be offset by carbon binding.
Percentages pertaining to the GHG emissions in Landsvirkjun’s operations in 2013. Landsvirkjun’s carbon footprint is defined as the total set of annual GHG emissions from Landsvirkjun’s operations including carbon binding, i.e. the carbon binding measures implemented by Landsvirkjun. Landsvirkjun has been involved in the extensive land reclamation and re-forestation of the areas surrounding their power stations for over forty years and the Company’s annual carbon binding is estimated to be 22,000 tonnes CO2- eq per year. An agreement was reached with Kolviður, in 2013, on the neutralisation of all carbon emissions as a result of Landsvirkjun’s use of petrol and diesel for transportation purposes, the international and domestic air travel of employees and finally the disposal of waste. These emissions were equal to approx. 1,027 tonnes of CO2-eq and have now been neutralised via carbon binding in the forested areas of the country.
Carbon binding is the process of increasing vegetation coverage so that the vegetation can extract more carbon dioxide from the atmosphere, therefore reducing the concentration of GHG emissions.
Landsvirkjun’s carbon footprint: 26 thousand tonnes CO2 equivalent.
Landsvirkjun’s carbon footprint in 2013 (including carbon binding measures) was approx. 26, 000 tonnes CO2-eq. The carbon footprint has been reduced by 22% since 2012 and by 33% since 2009. This reduction can be traced to a decrease in emissions from geothermal utilisation and increased carbon binding efforts.
Total GHG emissions in Landsvirkjun’s operations between 2009 and 2013
Total GHG emissions in Landsvirkjun’s operations, between 2009 and 2013, by source
Landsvirkjun’s carbon footprint per GWh, in 2013, has decreased by 16% when compared with figures from 2012 and by 28% when compared with figures from 2009.
GHG emissions from Landsvirkjun’s operations in 2013 were approx. 3.7 tonnes CO2-eq/GWh if carbon binding is not included. Emissions were 1.9 tonnes CO2-eq/GWh if carbon binding is included. Landsvirkjun’s carbon footprint per GWh generated was therefore reduced by 16% when compared with 2012 and by 28% when compared with 2009. Calculations on GHG emissions per GWh do not include emissions from research wells as they are not directly connected to the electricity generated by the Company that year.
It is interesting to compare the emissions from the different energy sources utilised by Landsvirkjun: geothermal and hydropower. When calculating GHG emissions by energy source, the emissions not directly related to the energy source itself are allocated between the different sources using the amount of electricity generated by the respective source. This is the case for GHG emissions related to flights, waste disposal and carbon binding.
GHG emissions from various energy sources utilised by Landsvirkjun in 2013: hydropower and geothermal energy, including and not including carbon binding measures.
Greenhouse gas emissions can vary substantially when hydropower and geothermal power stations are compared. The GHG emissions for every GWh generated by geothermal stations were 64.7 tonnes CO2-eq/GWh, if carbon binding is not included and approx. 62.8 tonnes CO2-eq/GWh if carbon binding is included.
The GHG emissions for every GWh generated by hydropower stations was significantly lower or approx. 1.25 tonnes CO2-eq/GWh, if carbon binding was not included and negative (by -0.54 tonnes CO2-eq/GWh) if carbon binding was included. Landsvirkjun has therefore completed carbon binding measures, beyond its emissions, in the amount of 0.54 tonnes CO2-eq for every GWh generated via hydropower. More information on GHG emissions can be found in the numerical data section.
Landsvirkjun has completed carbon binding measures beyond emissions in the amount of 0.54 tonnes CO2-eq for every GWh generated via hydropower.
GHG emissions from geothermal power stations
Geothermal fluid, a blend of steam, geothermal water and geothermal gases, is extracted from boreholes during the utilisation process. Geothermal fluid is composed of steam, water and various gases within the steam. Geothermal gas is mostly composed of carbon dioxide (CO2, approx. 80-95% of the weight ratio), hydrogen sulphide (H2S, 5-20% of the weight ratio) and other gases (less than 1%), including the greenhouse gas methane (CH4). It is a matter of opinion whether the GHG emissions from geothermal power stations are manmade or in fact natural emissions from the geothermal area. There is no combustion involved in the geothermal utilisation process. The inclusion of these emissions in national emissions inventories for the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) varies between countries but Iceland includes this information in its accounts.
Conceptual model for the source and flow of carbon dioxide from active, high temperature volcanic areas
The concentration of geothermal gas is dependent on the behaviour of the geothermal system it originates from and regularly monitoring the concentration of gas in steam is an important part of the production process. Any changes to these levels can be an indicator of changes within the geothermal system itself and the flow to the surface. The concentration of gas in the Krafla area increased significantly during the Krafla Fires (1975-1984) but decreased once the seismic activity stopped and is still decreasing today.
Measured gas concentration in boreholes by Krafla and the overall migration of geothermal fluid between 1980 and 2009
Figures for the research drilling carried out at Þeistareykir by the company Þeistareykir ehf are included for the first time this year as the company is now fully owned by Landsvirkjun. GHG emissions from Landsvirkjun’s geothermal power stations have decreased when compared with previous years. This is mainly due to changes to the gas flow in the geothermal reservoir at Krafla and is also the result of a slight decrease in energy generation and research drilling.
GHG emissions as a result of electricity generation and research drilling between 2009 and 2013
Research drilling was carried out at Krafla, Bjarnarflag and Þeistareykir.
Hydrogen sulphide emissions from geothermal power stations
Hydrogen sulphide (H2S) is not a greenhouse gas but can have a negative impact on humans and the ecosystem. Hydrogen sulphide emissions, have until now, been an unavoidable part of the geothermal utilisation process in Iceland. Natural emissions from geothermal areas affect the concentration of hydrogen sulphide in the atmosphere. Environmental limits for hydrogen sulphide concentrations in the atmosphere, resulting from geothermal utilisation, were set in 2010 (regulation: 514/2010). A new limit was set on the 1st of July, 2014 and the average concentration level, over a 24 hour period, must not exceed 50 µg/m3.
Environmental limits for hydrogen sulphide concentrations in the atmosphere
|Environmental limits||Time of reference||Limit [µg/m3]||Number of times permitted; to surpass limits annually||Valid from:|
|Public health limits||Limit for daily 24 hr average||50||5||Regulation became effective|
|Public health limits||Limit for daily 24 hr average||50||0||1st July 2014|
|Public health limits||Year||5|
Landsvirkjun monitors hydrogen sulphide concentration levels in the atmosphere as a result of geothermal utilisation, in the northeast of Iceland. Measurements have been conducted in residential areas in Reykjahlíð (Helluhraun) and in the Kelduhverfi area since February, 2011 and the results were published on the Company website. Two more monitoring stations were set up in the Mývatn area in 2013.
Hydrogen sulphide monitoring stations in the Mývatn area
Certain meteorological conditions can limit the dilution of gases released by geothermal power stations and the gases released naturally in geothermal areas. This occurs when warm fronts are formed close to the surface and prevent the gases from rising upwards. The concentration of Hydrogen sulphide is at its highest under these conditions.
Certain meteorological conditions can limit the dilution of gases released by geothermal power stations
Results of hydrogen sulphide monitoring in Reykjahlíð and the Kelduhverfi area in 2012 and 2013
- The yearly average for hydrogen sulphide concentrations in Helluhraun in Reykjahlíð was calculated to be 5.8 μg/m3 for 2012 and 5.1 μg/m3 for 2013. Taking into account the measurement accuracy up to ±3 μg/m3 the concentration of hydrogen sulphide did not surpass the set health limits (5±3 μg/m3) in 2012 and 2013.
- The set daily limit for the moving average of hydrogen sulphide over a 24 hour period did not surpass set health limits, in Reykjahlíð, in 2012 and 2013 (according to regulations).
- The yearly average for hydrogen sulphide concentrations in Eyvindarstaðir in the Kelduhverfi area was 1.7 μg/m3 in 2012 and 1.2 μg/m3 in 2013. However, the calculated values are not valid as too many days were missing from the average and the accuracy of measurement is ±3 μg/m3.
- The set daily limit for the moving average of hydrogen sulphide over a 24 hour period did not surpass set health limits, in the Kelduhverfi area (according to regulations) but there was a lack of data available in 2012 due to the failure of a monitoring station.
More information on the results of monitoring on hydrogen sulphide concentrations can be found on Landsvirkjun’s website. Continual recordings on hydrogen sulphide levels in Reykjahlíð are published on the Company website in an effort to increase transparency on the operations in the area.
Total hydrogen sulphide emissions from electricity generation and research drilling decreased significantly in 2013 when compared with the year before and was lower than in previous years.
Hydrogen sulphide emissions as a result of electricity generation and research drilling between 2009 and 2013
GHG emissions from hydropower station reservoirs
Soil and vegetation is submerged during the construction of a reservoir and the decomposition of organic matter and vegetation generates the greenhouse gases carbon dioxide (CO2), methane (CH4) and nitrous oxide (N2O).
GHG emission levels from reservoirs can vary. The most significant factor is the overall amount of vegetation and organic matter submerged each time. Landsvirkjun has monitored these factors using recognised methods. There is almost no release of carbon dioxide when reservoirs are covered in ice. However, a significant amount of methane is released and this is not monitored independently. Methane emissions are calculated as part of the total emissions from the reservoir. Landsvirkjun has, since 2009, recorded the number of days when the main reservoirs (where GHG emissions are at their highest) are covered in ice. Blanda and Gilsárlón are two of the reservoirs where these factors are monitored and records show that the Blanda Storage Reservoir was ice-free for 202 days in 2013, whereas Gilsárlón was ice-free for 190 days. More information on GHG emissions from Landsvirkjun’s reservoirs, in 2013, can be found in the numerical data section.
Greenhouse gas generation as a result of land being submerged
GHG emissions from hydropower station reservoirs between 2009 and 2013
GHG emissions from the burning of fossil fuels and emissions from electrical equipment
GHG emissions from the burning of fossil fuels, is calculated from the total amount of fuel consumed during Landsvirkjun’s operations. The estimate on GHG emissions is, amongst other things, based on the number of flights taken by employees as well as information from the Icelandic Energy Forecast Committee and the various airlines. GHG emissions from the international air travel of Landsvirkjun employees were estimated up until 2011 and the estimated total was 250 tonnes of CO2-eq per year. In 2012, accurate data on the actual amount of international air travel became available and the total GHG emission level decreased significantly when compared with the previous year. The GHG emissions from international air travel in 2013 was 121 tonnes of CO2-eq.
In 2013, 270 kg of methane was utilised to fuel vehicles. The use of methane as a fuel alternative for vehicles saved 800 kg of CO2-eq from being produced (when compared with the average emissions from an average vehicle run on diesel oil).
SF6 gas is used as an isolation material for high voltage equipment at the Fljótsdalur Hydropower Station and in the Þjórsá area and a leakage or accident could result in the gas being released. The gas is the most potent of all the greenhouse gases and is 23,900 more potent than carbon dioxide. Emissions from electrical equipment have been detected once in the last five years (in 2009).
GHG emissions from the burning of fossil fuels in Landsvirkjun’s operations between 2009 and 2013
GHG emissions from landfills and the incineration of waste
The disposal of waste via landfill results in the decomposition of organic matter and the emission of landfill gas. Landfill gas is mostly composed of methane and carbon dioxide but methane has a more substantial effect as it is 21 times more potent than carbon dioxide. In 2013, there was a significant reduction in unsorted waste sent for landfill when compared with previous years and a concurrent decrease in GHG emissions.
GHG emissions from landfill waste as a result of Landsvirkjun’s operations between 2009 and 2013