Report – Technical and economic analysis Geothermal energy Lithium extraction


NREL Lithium report title page (screenshot)

The NREL in the United States published an interesting study on the technical and economic aspects of extracting lithium from geothermal brines.

Last month, the National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL) in the United States released an interesting report, providing a “techno-economic analysis of the extraction of lithium from geothermal brines”.

The technical report was written by Ian Warren and was released in May 2021.

The United States has a significant national source of lithium in geothermal fluids, particularly in the Salton Sea region of southern California, where estimates of lithium transmission from geothermal power plants exceed 24 000 tonnes per year, based on 2019 geothermal power plant operations. Lithium mining from geothermal brines has the potential to provide the United States with a secure domestic supply of lithium to meet growing demands for electric vehicles, for grid energy storage, portable electronics and other end-use applications. Additionally, the use of direct mining technologies allows for a more sustainable lithium supply compared to current evaporative brine and hard rock mining operations in terms of land use, water use. , the time to market for lithium products and the carbon intensity of operations. This report is part of an effort to assess geothermal brines as a source of commercial lithium supply for the United States. In this study, the National Renewable Energies Laboratory (NREL) reviews and summarizes public techno-economic analyzes of lithium mining technologies. The work was coordinated with the Critical Minerals Institute at the Colorado School of Mines, which focused on lithium supply chain analysis.

The report provides details on lithium mining technology, lithium and geothermal brines, and detailed techno-economic analysis.

The analysis provides an interesting insight into the economics of the project for the various direct lithium mining projects planned internationally, including geothermal, avaporite, oil and wage resources. In his overview he examines two brine-based geothermal DLE projects namely the Salton Sea / USA and the Upper Rhine Valley / Germany.

The lithium concentration appears to be the highest for the Salton / California Sea, also offering high lithium recovery rates and a rather high pre-tax internal rate of return.

The report examines the available data, which is somewhat limited for some projects and efforts, but provides excellent insight into the economics of mining lithium from geothermal brine. However, this also highlights that ideally data from both pilot and commercial scale demonstration projects would be needed for a full analysis. In addition, the report also shares details on the different techniques for extracting lithium from brines based on recent research efforts, pointing out that there is not yet the one and only solution that will make the market. .

Source: NREL Report

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