From 1970 until his retirement Dr. Elders directed a Geothermal Resource Program at UCR. He has lectured at International Geothermal Institutes in New Zealand and Japan and served as Chairman of the Education Committee of the Geothermal Resources Council (GRC) of the U.S.A. for several years. From 1983-1988 he was Chief Scientist of the Salton Sea Scientific Drilling Project, that drilled a 3.1 km deep borehole that reached temperatures of 360oC and produced brines containing >25 wt% of total dissolved solids. His current interests range from research drilling, to comparisons between the geological history of the Grand Canyon and the Delta of the Colorado River, and to combating the attempts of Christian fundamentalists to promote the teaching of "creation science" and "intelligent design" in public schools.
In 2000 he retired from laboratory science and teaching to devote full time to being one of two Co-chief Scientist of the Iceland Deep Drilling Project (IDDP) a long term, international, drilling project. The IDDP is aimed at bringing about the next phase in the development of geothermal resources worldwide, by exploring for deep, supercritical, geothermal fluids. The resultant superheated steam produced should have a power output ten times that of a conventional well producing subcritical steam.
In 2005 the IDDP drilled a well to a depth of 3 km on the Reykjanes Peninsula where the Mid-Atlantic ridge emerges on land in Iceland. In April 2006, it was decided to move operations to Krafla, a central volcano in Northern Iceland, as the site for the first deep IDDP borehole. This location is within a volcanic caldera, with higher temperature gradients and more recent volcanic activity than Reykjanes. The IDDP plans to rotary drill and spot core an exploratory borehole to 3.5 km depth, and then deepen it to ~ 4.5 km, using continuous wireline coring for scientific purposes, and then attempt a flow test from the deepest portion of the well. This borehole will be completed in 2008 at a cost of more than 20 million USD, funded by industrial partners and the Icelandic government.
A 4.5 million USD research budget is being funded jointly by the US National Science Foundation and the International Continental Scientific Drilling Program. In addition to exploring for new sources of alternative energy, this project will provide the first opportunity worldwide for scientists to investigate the deep, high temperature reaction zone of a volcano situated on a mid-ocean ridge. This drill site is ideally situated for a broad array of scientific studies involving water/rock reactions at extremely high temperatures in an active setting. Active processes in such deep high-temperature reaction zones that control fluid compositions on mid-ocean ridges have never before been available for comprehensive direct study and sampling. See http://www.iddp.is