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The Latest: Official: Lava wall protecting geothermal plant

May 23, 2018 GMT
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This Wednesday, May 23, 2018 photo shows a helicopter overflight of Kīlauea Volcano's lower East Rift Zone near Pahoa, Hawaii. The volcano produces methane when hot lava buries and burns plants and trees. Scientists say the methane can seep through cracks several feet away from the lava. ( U.S. Geological Survey via AP)
1 of 17
This Wednesday, May 23, 2018 photo shows a helicopter overflight of Kīlauea Volcano's lower East Rift Zone near Pahoa, Hawaii. The volcano produces methane when hot lava buries and burns plants and trees. Scientists say the methane can seep through cracks several feet away from the lava. ( U.S. Geological Survey via AP)

PAHOA, Hawaii (AP) — The Latest on the eruption of a volcano in Hawaii (all times local):

1:15 p.m.

Officials say lava spatter from Hawaii’s erupting volcano is creating a wall that’s helping protect a nearby geothermal plant.

U.S. Geological Survey scientist Wendy Stovall said Wednesday that lava erupting from a vent closest to Puna Geothermal Venture is shooting higher than lava coming out of other vents.

She says it’s also producing the highest lava wall, which is blocking molten rock from flowing north toward the plant.

Residents have been concerned about hazards if lava flowed over the plant’s facilities or if the molten rock heated chemicals at the plant.

Lava from the eruption on the Big Island is primarily flowing south toward the ocean.

Officials shut down Puna Geothermal shortly after Kilauea began erupting on May 3.

On Tuesday, officials finished plugging wells that bring up hot liquid and steam that feed a turbine generator.

(May 21)
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10:30 a.m.

Blue flames from burning methane have become part of the eruption of Kilauea volcano in Hawaii.

Nighttime photos released Wednesday by the U.S. Geological Survey show the flames spouting from road cracks in the Leilani Estates neighborhood where the volcano has been sending up lava through vents in the ground.

The volcano produces methane when hot lava buries and burns plants and trees.

Scientists say the methane can seep through cracks several feet away from the lava. The methane can also explode when heated.

Kilauea began erupting lava in a residential neighborhood on May 3. It has since opened more than 20 vents releasing lava, sulfur dioxide and steam.

The eruption has destroyed 50 buildings, including about two dozen homes. One person was seriously injured after being hit by a flying piece of lava.

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8 p.m. Tuesday

Authorities say production wells at a geothermal plant under threat by lava flowing from Hawaii’s Kilauea volcano have been plugged to prevent toxic gases from seeping out.

Ten wells were “quenched,” which cools them with cold water, and the last was plugged with mud. A metal cap has been added on top as an additional measure.

Puna Geothermal, owned by Nevada’s Ormat Technologies, was shut down shortly after Kilauea began spewing lava on May 3. The plant harnesses heat and steam from the earth’s core to spin turbines to generate power.

A flammable gas called pentane is used as part of the process, though officials earlier this month removed 50,000 gallons (190,000 liters) of the gas from the plant to reduce the chance of explosions.

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