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Geothermal and lithium – the attractive development combination in the Salton Sea

Hudson Ranch I geothermal power plant, January 2012, Salton Sea, California/ U.S. (source: EnergySource)
Alexander Richter 15 Feb 2017

The combination of geothermal resources and lithium at the Salton Sea in California, create a seemingly and incredibly attractive development opportunity and one can hope that plans for large scale geothermal power plant and lithium production facilities materialise.

In a great background article on recent activities on geothermal development in the Salton Sea in California, local publication Desert Sun provides a great overview on geothermal activities and the quest to mine Lithium from geothermal operations in the region.

Having reported on new plans for the development of a large scale geothermal plant by Australian developers in the region, the story of Lithium is an increasingly interesting one – yet again.

“After years of false starts and disappointments, the Salton Sea lithium story may get a happy ending after all, so the article”, so the Desert Sun.

It describes the background on failed efforts by company Simbol Materials and the interest by Elon Musk’s Tesla Motors, which is just about to start its Gigafactory for the production of batteries in Nevada.

It now seems that a startup has acquired the technology of the failed Simbol Materials and is partnering up with the developers of the geothermal project, Controlled Thermal Resources. It could be the first large scale geothermal development in the Salton Sea in years, and produce power by as early as 2012 – and mine Lithium from geothermal brine.

“This year’s actually the year we get down and dirty and covered in hydraulic fluid,” said Rod Colwell, CEO of the Australian firm, Controlled Thermal Resources. “It’s exciting to actually get on site.”

“Colwell originally planned to drill exploratory wells last fall, but the government approval process has taken longer than expected. Company officials now say they hope to start drilling in May, after getting their conditional use permit from Imperial County in the next month or two.

“We’re 95 percent done, we’re just waiting on some final archaeological reports,” said Jason Czapla, the firm’s chief engineer, who moved from Australia to El Centro to oversee operations last year.

The plans for a large scale Lithium production would reshape the global lithium market, which is in high demand with an ever growing energy storage market and lithium being a necessary component. Alger Alternative Energy is the startup that has announced having secured financing for a full-scale lithium plant, as well as a 10-year contract to sell the lithium.

Global production of lithium carbonate has been estimated at about 175,000 metric tons in 2015. Alger’s contract with partners calls for the startup to deliver 60,000 tons of the stuff per year.

The article provides an interesting read and details, see link below.

Source: Desert Sun