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We do have permafrost in Poland!

Monday, 09 August 2010 13:38

Press conference at the Polish Geological Institute on 6 August 2010

Long-awaited information was coming from the Udryń PIG-1 borehole to the Institute during the exceptionally hot summer of 2010. The exploratory well, designed by               Dr. Jan Szewczyk in the Suwałki thermal anomaly region, after long-term struggle with the tender procedures was finally implemented in July 2010. The drilling process caused some technical problems due to the presence of thick clay series.  However, after those problems were solved, the bore-hole was successfully completed on 24th July, at the designed depth of 450 metres.  A filter was mounted at  the depth 398 metres. Initial data, although being still of a qualitative character, were very much promising – extremely low temperature of the returning drilling fluid was observed and the core barrels were ice-cold.

photo. J. Szewczyk

Thermal logging carried out on 26th July by Geofizyka Kraków in conditions of a partly stabilized temperature of the well gave very interesting results. At the depth of 357 metres, the temperature dramatically dropped down to  1.2oC – the value never recorded before, even in the Suwałki thermal anomaly area. In view of that unusual outcome, the Institute’s Director decided to repeat the measurements as an additional procedure. The data from the repeated logging carried out after a test-pumping, on 3rd August, were already sensational – at the depth of 360 metres, the temperature taken was only 0.07oC. Frankly speaking, no one expected that in the Institute. Even Dr. Szewczyk himself,  who had been writing for many years about possible survival of fossil permafrost, was surprised. What is more, the probe was stopped at the depth of the minimal readout and despite many attempts it was impossible to lower it deeper. Dr. Szewczyk thinks it cannot be ruled out that the device was stopped by ... an ice cork.


Already, after the first results of observations in the Udryń  well, it was decided that the information should be presented to broader public opinion. The final data were interesting enough to organize a press conference. It was held on 6th August in the PAP’s (Polish Press Agency) Warsaw Press Centre in Bracka Street. Unfortunately, the meeting which  had been scheduled with a two-week notice coincided with the swearing ceremony of Bronisław Komorowski into the President of the Republic of Poland. So, the attendance fell short of the organizers’ expectations – about 35 journalists appeared. However, it cannot be ruled out that the hosts’ anticipations were overstated. A message which for a scientific community appears to be a first-class sensation, is not necessarily anything exceptional for the media.


The conference was attended by: the PGI Director, Associate Professor Jerzy Nawrocki,  the creator and the first manager of  ‘Integrated Program of Shallow Exploratory Drillings for Solving Major Geological Problems in Poland, as part of which  the Udryń PIG–1 borehole was made (currently the Program is being supervised by Dr. Olga Rosowiecka), Dr. Jan Szewczyk –  the originator and designer of the well and Marcin Honczaruk (M.Sc.), who is in charge of the geological work. The conference was moderated over by Mirosław Rutkowski (M.Sc.) , the Institute’s Press Spokesman.

Director Nawrocki, in his opening address, emphasized the importance of the discovery of the paleopermafrost for the science and economy. He said, among others: ‘What is the significance of the discovery? It is huge and what's more not only on the European scale. It means the possibility of a quantitative reconstruction of the paleoclimate of the last glaciation period, a verification of the geothermal conditions in the north-eastern Poland which is so difficult for the development of Polish geothermics. It is also important for the CCS dedicated programs and gas shales’

Dr. Szewczyk described the scientific background of the discovery in his presentation, which was illustrated with numerous graphs and sections. Marcin Honczaruk showed in short the technology of sinking the well and its technical parameters.

Eventually, the time came to demonstrate the content of a Styrofoam box which had been focusing the attention of the journalists since the beginning of the conference.  On opening it, a sight of frosted well cores, which were brought directly from Udryń and had been kept in specially bought freezer since they were sampled, met the eyes of the audience. The specimens made an impression. Photos appeared the very same day in the PAP materials and the event was reported in all bigger news bulletins.
A sweet snack finished the conference and of course champagne – however, in symbolic rather amount.

Mirosław Rutkowski






Photo: Barbara Żbikowska



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