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The Reykjavik Energy Group is among the largest companies in Iceland.The performance of the Group in environmental matters is therefore important. The main environmental projects can be seen in the following list. The operations of the Reykjavik Energy Group are certified in accordance with the ISO 14001 environmental management system. The Group regularly submits reports to licensing authorities, i.e. the health authorities, the National Energy Authority and the Environment Agency, see appendix.

The emphasis is placed on water protection and waste management, see section E7-E8. In sections dealing with special environmental impacts an environmental incident at the Andakílsá Hydropower Station, as well as managing high temperature fields, hydrogen sulphide emissions, waste water treatment and more, are dealt with.

Environmental priorities of the Reykjavik Energy Group:

  • To emphasise water protection, the responsible management of water resources and ensure the long-term supply of potable water
  • Show responsible handling and management of low-temperature resources
  • Show responsible handling and management of high-temperature resources, to reduce hydrogen sulphide emissions and discharge geothermal water in a responsible way
  • Show responsible handling and management of waste water systems
  • Handle waste in a responsible way
  • To continue to apply effective procedures to restore disturbed areas
  • To play an active role in promoting climate-friendly transport

E7 Water Protection and Water Management

Good health and well-being Clean water and sanitation Sustainable cities and communities Promotes UN‘s Sustainable Development Goals

In 2018, Veitur Utilities ensured the supply of potable water to the residents and business community in the distribution area, in accordance with established quality standards and the statutory and regulatory provisions and objectives of Veitur Utilities, see appendices.

Quality of potable water in Reykjavik

Veitur Utilities has thirteen water sources and ON Power has two water sources, see annex. The water utilities’ distribution system caters for up to 45% of the nation.

At the beginning of 2018, micro-organism measurements exceeded the threshold in five of potable water samples from boreholes in Heidmörk. Following this, the situation was examined, sampling supervision was increased, and ultraviolet (UV) light was used on potable water out of one borehole to reduce the risk of micro-organisms entering the water supply under special weather conditions. An experimental project is being conducted on the simultaneous analysis of micro-organisms in potable water. In the latter part of 2018, micro-organism measurements exceeded the threshold at the Nesjavellir Geothermal Power Plant but with repeated sampling, quality requirements were met.

Water conservation is delimited around the water sources of Veitur Utilities. Water protected areas are monitored with regard to, among other things, the transport of oil, petrol and other hazardous substances in Heidmörk, see appendics. To reduce the risk of oil spills, Veitur Utilities has started to use hydrogen vehicles instead of leak-inspected diesel vehicles in their supervision.

Veitur Utilities plans to increase water production in the Vatnsendakrikar plant in Heidmörk.

Veitur Utilities has investigated microplastics in potable water in the boreholes and distribution system of the capital area. A minute quantity of plastic was found in the system and its origin is unclear. There are no guideline limits for microplastics in potable water. Work is being conducted on the development of collection and analysis methods.

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Bjorgvin Karlsson
Bjorgvin Karlsson
Engineer specialised in turbine maintenance

Bjorgvin is specialised in turbine maintenance. Experts like him mostly monitor and assess the equipment that delivers hot water and electricity from the power plants. Björgvin is a passionate Arsenal supporter whereas most of his colleagues support Manchester United. However, he is by no means intimidated by them when it comes to cheering on his team. He sings in Stefnir’s men’s choir where he’s been rehearsing ancient Eddic songs so he is well used to raising his voice.

Greenhouse gas emissions from waste for landfilling have substantially increased since 2015. The percentage of waste from the waste water treatment plants is the highest, i.e. about 65% of the total volume of landfilled waste. There is limited scope for controlling the amount of waste of this kind that is produced, but care is taken to ensure that it is disposed of in approved landfill sites. The volume of other waste variably increased or decreased. The appendices show how waste is divided between waste categories, work sites and municipalities.

Waste management at Reykjavik Energy Group 2015-2018


Photo: Gretar Ívarsson

The Reykjavik Energy Group works according to an Environmental and Resource Policy, which marks the Group’s commitment to steadily improve on environmental issues. It is founded on five principles which apply to all operating units: Responsible resource management, value of utility operations, minimising the impact of emissions caused by operations, as well as the impact on society and the activities of the company. The policy forms the basis for good collaboration with stakeholders. The Environmental and Resources Policy is founded on the values of the comprehensive corporate strategy of the Reykjavik Energy Group. The Group has defined over twenty significant environmental factors. These factors are defined in order to be able to approach the organisation of environmental issues with clear objectives and defined responsibilities for those concerned.

E10 Special Environmental Impacts

The Reykjavik Energy Group has placed a focus on the impact of the significant environmental factors which the Group has defined with regard to the principles stated in the Environmental and Resource policy.

The points of focus are water conservation, responsible production from low and high-temperature geothermal areas, hydrogen sulphide emissions, the discharge of geothermal fluids and a new treatment plant for the sewerage system in Borgarnes. Veitur Utilities increased its monitoring of potable water in the water utility after micro-organisms were detected in potable water samples in the capital area. Veitur Utilities is also investigating microplastics in potable water and drainage. The status of steam reserves in the plants of ON Power has not been this good for a long time and the operation of the hydrogen sulphide abatement units at the Hellisheidi Geothermal Power Plant is proceeding well. The system eliminates about 75% of the hydrogen sulphide and about 35% of the carbon dioxide from the plant. Work has been done on planning emission-free production at the plants in the Hengill area and a target has been set for the waste water systems to ensure the shores of the city are always clean. This is an ambitious target but a feasible one.

Environmental Incident at the Andakílsá Hydropower Station

The flora and fauna in Andakílsá has recovered after a substantial amount of silt was carried into the river when an inspection of the dam intake at the Andakílsá Hydropower Station was conducted in May 2017. According to the findings of the Marine Research Institute, there is still some way to go, particularly where the flow is at its weakest, but the habitats of flora and fauna recovered relatively quickly. Spawning last summer seems to have been successful and a vast increase in the number of one-year old parr was recorded in the river in the summer of 2018. The salmon season for parr that were a year old when the accident occurred was quite poor but two-year olds fared better. To offset these losses in the stock, a decision was made to release 30,000 juveniles into the river in 2019 and 2020. It is proposed that fishing should start again in 2020. ON Power will assess the situation with scientists and interested parties to determine follow-up measures, research and monitoring.

The plan is to remove the sediment at the intake of the reservoir of the Andakílsá Hydropower Station in the autumn of 2019. ON Power will consult the interested parties to brief them on the progress of the project.

In 2018, production in the low-temperature fields of Veitur Utilities in the capital area and most distribution areas in South and West Iceland was, in accordance with the company’s definitions and objectives and statutory and regulatory provisions. Veitur Utilities operates thirteen district heating utilities: one in the capital area, which is the biggest, and five in West Iceland and South Iceland, see appendix. The district heating utilities service 65% of the country. Low-temperature fields in the capital area are utilised in a stable and balanced manner. The demand for hot water is increasing in the capital area and it is nearing the tolerance limit in hot water reserves. This calls for an enlargement of the district heating utility in Hellisheidi, which is expected to be launched in the winter of 2019-2020. Research has also started on the possibility of producing hot water from low-temperature fields in Geldinganes in Reykjavík. In addition to this, work is being done to enlarge the distribution of hot water from geothermal power plants to reduce the need of production from low-temperature fields. If these plans are realised and they indicate that it is possible to utilise geothermal production within sustainable levels, this should indicate that this usage can be maintained for the foreseeable future, see annex.

Conditions in most of the low-temperature fields in South and West Iceland are good, albeit with some exceptions. More hot water needs to be produced for the Rangá Utility which services populated clusters in Hella and Hvolsvellir. Water and steam production was better in 2018 than in 2017. Work is being done to connect the boreholes in Ölfusdalur with the utilities that will be completed in the first half of 2019.

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Sverrir Gudmundsson
Sverrir Gudmundsson
Water utility programme director

Sverrir Gudmundsson is an electrical engineer with a postgraduate degree in computer vision and numerical modelling and works as a water utility programme director. Electricity and water generally don’t mix very well, but his expertise can be used in various areas, such as glacier research, which he worked in for a number of years. Sverrir has a compulsion to try out things he isn’t very good at with mixed results. Thus he tried out weight-lifting when he was younger with reasonable results and later marathon running with poor results.

Changes in geothermal energy activity on the surface

Production field of geothermal power plants in the Hengill area and changes in geothermal energy activity on the surface

In 2018, energy production at Nesjavellir and Hellisheidi were in accordance with the power plant’s operating licence and the objectives of ON Power. In recent years, maintaining the production capacity of power plants in the Hengill area has been one of the company’s most important tasks. Two powerful boreholes were drilled in Hverahlíd in 2018 and connected to the Hellisheidi geothermal power plant and two boreholes were drilled in Nesjavellir in 2018. No drilling had been done there since 2015. At the end of the year, both plants were running at full capacity, which has not been the case for several years. The steam reserves status of ON Power’s plants has not been this good for quite some time.

The production capacity of the boreholes in Hverahlíd now exceeds the transport capacity of the Hverahlíd utility. The development of the area will be monitored for at least the next five years in order to evaluate its production capacity. Even though new power plants are not envisaged for the Hengill area, it is foreseeable that the current production area will have to be expanded, if full capacity is to be maintained at the Hellisheidi and Nesjavellir geothermal power plants in the long term. Some preliminary research needs to commence on potential future production to lay the foundations for professional decision making regarding the future vision of power generation and to guarantee the sustainable utilisation of geothermal resources.

ON Power carefully monitored the utilisation drawdown in Hverahlíd and in the older production field of the Hellisheidi Geothermal Power Plant as well as in Nesjavellir, see appendix. Moreover, there is also a monitoring of geothermal energy activity on the surface, which can naturally change, but also change as a result of geothermal energy production, see image.

Discharge of Geothermal Water

In 2018, 70% of the geothermal fluids from Hellisheidi were reinjected into the geothermal field at the power plant with over 25% released as steam from the cooling towers and the rest, about 2%, released via overflow, see appendix . In 2018, more than 75% of the geothermal fluids from Nesjavellir had been injected into the lower cold groundwater layer via injection wells, see appendix . Geothermal fluids are injected to protect surface water and groundwater because they are hotter than groundwater and have a different chemical composition. Another objective is to control the reinjection so that it bolsters the pressure in the geothermal reservoir, which boosts sustainable utilisation.

In recent years, a lot of research and development projects have been conducted to fulfil reinjection requirements at Hellisheidi and Nesjavellir, with considerable success, see appendix . In the latter half of 2018, experimental reinjection drilling started on 10% of the geothermal fluid from Nesjavellir down to the geothermal reservoir. Its effects on the geothermal system will be closely monitored. The discharge of heated groundwater on the surface at Nesjavellir decreased significantly in 2018, although the water temperature in streams by Lake Thingvallavatn is still high, see chart. Flora and fauna have been monitored in Thorsteinsvík by Lake Thingvallavatn since before the Nesjavellir Geothermal Power Plant was built. Results of measurements by The Natural History Museum of Kópavogur shows that these trace elements do not have a statistically significant impact on the flora and fauna, see appendices. Further additions to the reinjection from Hellisheidi will come into use in the first part of 2019. Finding solutions to injection issues is a task that requires patience and time will reveal the outcome.

The concentration of dissolved solids in surveillance wells in the vicinity of both power plants is below the limits set for potable water, see appendices.

EN_Varmagja 2018.png

Water temperature at Varmagjá at Lake Thingvallavatn, development of the Nesjavellir Geothermal Power Plant and mitigation measures

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Holmfridur Haraldsdottir
Holmfridur Haraldsdottir
Specialist in energy distribution

Hólmfríður studied engineering and energy engineering in Sweden. As a teenager she read a lot, mainly crime fiction and thrillers. But the knowledge she acquired in these areas of reading was of limited use to her in everyday life, since its purpose was to learn Swedish. In her work at ON Power, she maintains electricity sale contracts with big users and is in charge of energy production guarantees of origin, to mention but a few things. She is very satisfied with her colleagues and they very competitively participate in the Fantasy division.

Induced Seismic Activity


Photo: Gretar Ívarsson

Reinjection can cause seismic activity, so-called induced seismic activity or triggered earthquakes. This is well known in the reinjection fields of the Hellisheidi Geothermal Power Plant, particularly in the Húsmúli area, see appendix. The earthquakes occur when the reinjection releases tension that has built up in the bedrock due to movements in the earth’s crust. ON Power follows work procedures that are designed to minimise the risk of induced earthquakes in the area. In the latter half of 2018, two notifications were sent to the Icelandic Meteorological Office and the Department of Civil Protection of the Icelandic Police due to changes in reinjection.

Reykjavik Energy participates in three European Union projects which are aimed at boosting knowledge of the interplay between the reinjection of geothermal liquids and seismic activity. The projects involve more seismic activity measurements in the area, greater monitoring and more detailed seismic activity research.

Hydrogen Sulphide and Carbon Dioxide abatement

Life on land Promotes UN‘s Sustainable Development Goals

The concentration of hydrogen sulphide (H2S) in populated areas never exceeded the threshold limits in Nordlingaholt, Lækjarbot and Hveragerdi in 2018, see appendix. The success of the systematic removal and reinjection of hydrogen sulphide from the Hellisheidi Geothermal Power Plant was considerable in 2018 and the percentage of reinjected hydrogen sulphide from the Plant amounted to about 75%, see graph.

Hydrogen sulphide emissions from plants in the Hengill area have been ON Power’s greatest environmental challenge, since hydrogen sulphide causes odour pollution, corrosion, and in high concentrations can be hazardous to people.

The combined hydrogen sulphide emissions from the Nesjavellir and Hellisheidi geothermal power plants amounted to over 9.5 thousand tons in 2018, see appendix. The margin of error for emissions is 5%.

A plan has been developed for emission-free production at ON Power’s power plants in the Hengill area. A great deal of know-how, time, and funding need to go into the project, but it can also generate revenue. Emission-free production is an ambitious target but achievable.

Annual percentage of reinjection of hydrogen sulphide emissions from the Hellisheidi geothermal power plant in 2013-2018

Annual percentage of reinjection of carbon dioxide emissions from the Hellisheidi geothermal power plant in 2013-2018

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Bodvar Agust Arsaelsson
Bodvar Agust Arsaelsson
Fibre optics system technician:

Bodvar Agust does everything at the Reykjavik Fibre Network except mop up, according to his own words. He oversees the fibre optics system's operations and during his working day he is out in the field working on the maintenance of equipment in hubs or with clients. Bödvar is really into country life, even though he was brought up in the city. He spent his summers in the country as a child and, at the young age of 15, ran an entire dairy farm in the Dalasýsla district for several weeks when the farmer went off on sick leave. He worked for the Reykjavik Fibre Network’s competitors for 10 years and says that the Reykjavik Energy team and the canteen are the two best things about his job.

Geothermal Park in Hellisheidi

Affordable and clean energy Industry, innovation and infrastructure Climate action Promotes UN‘s Sustainable Development Goals
Jarðhitagarður enska.jpg

Overview of current operations in the Geothermal Park at the Hellisheidi Geothermal Power Plant

The Geothermal Park at the Hellisheidi power plants is working in collaboration with the municipality of Ölfus in an endeavour to increase the diversified usage of the thermal energy, electricity and geothermal gases from the plant. A diversified use of geothermal energy can increase efficiency and strengthen environmentally sound operations and innovation in the business community.

Overview of current activities in the Geothermal Park. An example of the improved usage of the resources flow is that the separated water from the Hellisheidi Geothermal Power Plant is used for the production of dietary supplements by the GeoSilica company and various energy-related supplies are used in the cultivation of microalgae by the international start-up company, Algaennovation. Out of the microalgae, feed will be produced for animals and potentially for humans. Numerous start-up businesses have shown an interest in using carbon dioxide and other elements from the plant. Strict conditions are imposed regarding water protection, treatment, the utilisation of vegetation and minimising the visual impact.

Wastewater System Discharge

Clean water and sanitation Sustainable cities and communities Life below water Promotes UN‘s Sustainable Development Goals

Veitur Utilities manages the development and operation of waste water systems in Reykjavik and Akranes and Borgarbyggd in West Iceland. Drainage from Kópavogur, Mosfellsbaer and Seltjarnarnes, in addition to parts of Gardabaer, is handled in waste water treatment plants at Ánanaust and Klettagardar, i.e. from about 60% of the population.

EN_Fráveita 2018.png

Wastewater from about 60% of the population in Iceland is treated in sewage treatment plants at Ánanaust and Klettagardar in Reykjavík

In 2018 a new waste water treatment plant was launched in Borgarnes. In the collection areas of Veitur Utilities, the residents and business community have access to the utility system or treatment works in accordance with the law and regulations. Veitur Utilities’ objective is to ensure the shores of the city are always clean. The design of the waste water system has to be altered to ensure unfiltered waste water is not discharged into the sea due to malfunctions or maintenance. Results of measurements of waste water pollution on the periphery of the dilution area in Faxaflói in 2018 show that the number of microbes was under environmental limits, but above the threshold for enterococci in a number of places by the coast, see appendix.

Micro-organisms measurements have exceeded limits in drainage or in biological waste water treatment plants in West Iceland in recent years. Endeavours are being made to find an explanation for this in collaboration with the health authorities of West Iceland.

The waste water discharge report of the treatment plants is in appendixes.

Veitur Utilities is conducting research into microplastics in drainage at the treatment plant in Klettagardar. Some quantity of plastic was found but there are no guideline limits for microplastics in drainage. Research is continuing to be undergone.

The City of Reykjavik and Veitur Utilities are working on implementing blue-green surface water solutions. Many towns use these solutions to cater for increased precipitation due to climate changes and to clean rivers and lakes, see appendix.

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Sandra Osk Snaebjornsdottir
Sandra Osk Snaebjornsdottir
Geologist in Reykjavik Energy’s Development division

Dr. Sandra has a passionate interest in basalt and works as a geologist in Reykjavik Energy’s Development division. She is involved in power generation in high temperatures, reserve issues in low temperatures and sequesters gas into rock in between. In her free time she dashes up to the mountains because that is where she can find large quantities of basalt that will perhaps be used in the reinjection of gas in the future. She plays the cello with, among others, the Askja group which is made of cello-playing geologists. Sandra is also the matriarch of fermenting dough, which she and other sourdough lovers in Development bake over the weekend.

Land Improvements in Reykjavik Energy’s Operating Areas

Climate action Life on land Promotes UN‘s Sustainable Development Goals

The Reykjavik Energy Group administers about 19,000 hectares, some 16,000 hectares of which are within protected areas, see annex. The annex also contains a list of the species of birds and plants on the Red List who have habitats within the areas. The emphasis is placed on the good restoration and reclamation of the natural environment and reducing the visual impact of Reykjavik Energy’s power plant areas and the operating areas of Veitur Utilities, the Reykjavik Fibre Network and Reykjavik Energy. This is done in collaboration with the licensing authorities and in accordance with the objectives of the Reykjavik Energy Group. About 4.5 hectares were cultivated with local vegetation in 2018 of which 2.9 hectares were due to construction and 1.6 hectares due to further land improvements. The vegetation cover is preserved and used for the reclamation of local vegetation in the construction projects of the Reykjavik Energy Group on vegetated land.

Reykjavik Energy administers about 110 km of marked walking paths in the Hengill area which have significantly deteriorated as a result of the increased traffic of hikers. Sensitive areas were shut off and walking paths were adjusted in the summer of 2018, see pictures.

The experience of hikers and tourists in Hengill is that the area is natural, peaceful, accessible, beautiful and impressive. The attitude to the power plants in the area is fairly nonchalant, see appendix.

Stígagerð við Hellisheiðarvirkjun

Photo: Belinda Eir Engilbertsdóttir - Hiking trails in the vicinity of the Hellisheidi Geothermal Power Plant.

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Petur Darri Saevarsson
Petur Darri Saevarsson
Supervisor of software and improvement projects

Petur Darri works in the servicing division but he is enormously interested in services and how they are perceived by customers. He spends the entire day trying to find ways of making the service desk more efficient so that the staff can be better prepared to serve customers. These ways do not always have to be complex and might simply involve trying to reduce the amount of mouse clicks the staff have to make in the IT system. Pétur Darri is the father of a little boy and a diehard football fan. He is delighted there is a foosball table in the basement of the headquarters at Bæjarháls and feels there should be a table soccer tournament in the building.

Use of Hazardous Substances

Good health and well-being Life below water Promotes UN‘s Sustainable Development Goals

The main hazardous substances used by the Reykjavik Energy Group are asbestos, the base material used in insulation foam, chlorine, acids and bases, welding gases, geothermal gases, oil and solvents. In 2018, hazardous substances were used considerably, as in previous years. The improvements that have been undertaken regarding the storage, sorting and disposal of hazardous substances have increased the staff’s awareness of the importance of these issues. In 2018, workshops on hazardous substances were held for staff who work with these substances. The Reykjavik Energy Group does not emit any ozone-depleting substances in its activities. The transport of various hazardous substances is covered in the appendix.