Geothermal Engineering Ltd has confirmed the discovery of the world’s highest global concentration of lithium in geothermal fluid, which could boost efforts to sustainability produce batteries for electric vehicles.
Geothermal Engineering Ltd (GEL) has recently revealed groundbreaking levels of lithium in its geothermal fluid. More recently, further third-party testing has confirmed that there are 250 milligrams per litre (‘mg/L’) in the fluid, which stands as the greatest concentration of lithium ever found in geothermal fluids anywhere on Earth.
Environmentally friendly processing methods
GEL and its associates have been experimenting with more sustainable and zero-carbon techniques of separating the lithium from the geothermal fluid; so far, the team has been able to attain a 95% extraction rate. The experiments have also indicated that the concentration of magnesium – an expensive metal that makes processing more complicated – is very low. Based on these results, GEL is exploring the possibility of producing 4,000 tonnes of lithium per year from the next sites it is planning by 2026.
Lithium: from mining to electric vehicles
Lithium is an abundant metal that naturally occurs on almost every continent on Earth but is most often mined in South America and Australia. After it has been mined, it is sent to China, where it is processed into battery-grade lithium.
Finally, batteries are sent to Europe to be installed in electric vehicles. Currently, the UK does not produce lithium onshore, and as a result, the carbon footprint created by delivering lithium-ion batteries is substantial. Therefore, it is imperative that the industry steps up and begins to produce locally sourced, zero-carbon lithium.
The Faraday Institution, a government-backed body set up in 2017 to power Britain’s battery transformation, has predicted that the UK requirement for lithium may reach up to 59,000 tonnes a year of lithium carbonate equivalent by 2035, a figure that is based on projected growth in domestic battery demand.
Fuelling geothermal projects
Ryan Law, Managing Director of Geothermal Engineering Ltd, explained: “Deep geothermal heat and power are already set to help the world reach net-zero targets. The addition of lithium production with no carbon footprint or environmental damage will help to drive more geothermal projects forward in the UK and offer more opportunities for green jobs.
“If the UK is to reach the government target to produce only electric vehicles by 2035, we have to find more sustainable and geopolitically more reliable ways to deliver lithium batteries. Establishing meaningful onshore lithium production in the UK would also encourage a lithium-ion battery-based economy to develop in the UK and could attract further important inward investment opportunities for Cornwall and the South West.”