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Icelanders Offered the First Torch-Drilled Tunnel in Europe

The Icelandic government is in talks with an American pioneering company in the field of torch drilling to drill tunnels much cheaper and faster than previously known. The company offers to start drilling pipeline tunnels to Vestmannaeyjar next year at its own risk.

We said this summer that it sounded like an old fairy tale where a fire-breathing dragon drilled a tunnel through the Icelandic mountains. The entrepreneur Troy Helming uses a metaphor from a future movie in an interview with Stöð 2

“If we imagine a small tractor with a Star Wars-like beam saber in the front and a Mandalorian jetpack that blows out gravel and sand in the back.”

The method of using a superheated plasma arc is known from the metal industry but is said to revolutionize tunneling.

“We can be up to a hundred times faster than conventional tunneling and anywhere from 20 to 90 percent cheaper than conventional tunneling because it’s mostly just the electricity,” says Troy Helming, founder and CEO of Earthgrid in California.

Icelandic leaders are so excited about the technology that they signed a memorandum of understanding with Earthgrid’s Icelandic representative, Björgmund Guðmundsson, in Vestmannaeyju at the end of June.

The CEO of Earthgrid says the first three drilling machines will be ready next year and hopes that Icelanders will ride the wave in Europe with pipelines to the Islands.

“We hope so. If we get a contract in Iceland, we can change one of the machines so that it works with the 50 hertz electrical system in Europe and Iceland.”

-When can you start in Iceland?

“Probably around this time next year.” With 2.5 meter wide tunnels for electrical wiring, fiber optic cables, water.” Even for postal and parcel deliveries.

And such a tunnel could have another function.

“They would also be escape tunnels for larger 8 to 10 meter wide wall tunnels in the future.”

And the CEO offers that Earthgrid does this at its own risk.

“We’re a seven-year-old startup, we’re very well-funded, so we’ve offered to take on all the risk, which means we don’t need any money from anyone until we complete the phases of the projects.”

-But when will Earthgrid be ready to dig tunnels?

“Not next year, but possibly in the spring or summer of the year after that.”