Reducing Foreign Lithium Dependence through Co-Production of Lithium from Geothermal Brine

Authors: Klein, Kerry; Gaines, Linda
Keywords: Mineral extraction; zinc; silica; strategic metals; Imperial Valley; lithium ion batteries; electric-drive vehicles; battery recycling
Conference: Geothermal Resources Council Transactions Session: Mineral extraction; Brine chemistry; Lithium
Year: 2011 Language: English
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Abstract: Following a 2009 investment of $32.9 billion in renewable energy and energy efficiency research through the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act, President Obama in his January 2011 State of the Union address promised deployment of one million electric vehicles by 2015 and 80% clean energy by 2035. The United States seems poised to usher in its bright energy future, but in reality, industry supply chains still rely on foreign sources for many key feedstock materials. In particular, 43% of the lithium consumed domestically is imported, primarily from Chile, Argentina and China, and in 2010, only one company produced lithium from U.S. resources (USGS, 2011). Geothermal brines of the Imperial Valley resources of Southern California have been shown to be especially enriched in lithium but today remain an untapped resource. Producing lithium battery feedstocks at geothermal production facilities could not only provide the U.S. with much-needed lithium products and byproducts, but could provide millions of dollars in added revenue to geothermal developers. By providing lithium reserve estimates, Imperial Valley production potential and forecasts of the future of the electric vehicles industry, this study aims to relate the imperative of domestic lithium production to the vast potential of U.S. geothermal resources and showcase the benefits of industry adoption of lithium co-production at viable geothermal power plants.
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