Lawrence Berkeley Lab helping advance lithium extraction from geothermal brines

Site of the Hell's Kitchen project by CTR at the Salton Sea, California (source: CTR)
Alexander Richter 6 Aug 2020

Scientists at the Department of Energy's Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory are working with two companies to evaluate and analyze their lithium extraction technologies at the planned lithium extraction from geothermal brines projects in at the Salton Sea in California.

The California Energy Commission recently awarded grants to advance lithium extraction from geothermal brines in California. Lawrence Berkeley Laboratory will be working with two of the companies that received grants to explore and develop lithium extraction at the Salton Sea in California.

Lithium is a key ingredient of most batteries, and as vehicles, buildings, the grid, and other sectors increasingly go electric, global demand for lithium is expected to skyrocket in coming years, growing tenfold by 2030. Scientists at the Department of Energy’s Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory (Berkeley Lab) are working with two companies to evaluate and analyze their lithium extraction technologies. Both projects have recently been awarded grants from the California Energy Commission (CEC):

  • $6 million to Berkshire Hathaway Energy for a demonstration project at an existing geothermal power facility in Calipatria to produce battery-grade lithium carbonate
  • $1.46 million for Controlled Thermal Resources’ (CTR) Hell’s Kitchen Geothermal LLC for the design, construction, and operation of a pilot-scale base-metal extraction unit to be operated upstream of a lithium extraction unit.

Additionally, the CEC awarded Berkeley Lab $1.7 million for a project designed to demonstrate how seismic and electromagnetic data can map geothermal reservoirs and create enhanced imaging of their structural features to better locate and place production wells. These projects will occur at The Geysers, the world’s largest producing geothermal field located in Sonoma, Lake, and Mendocino counties; and the Salton Sea, the second largest geothermal field in the U.S.

“If there’s a good process for extracting lithium and other valuable minerals from geothermal fluids, that would improve the economic calculation for geothermal energy production,” said Berkeley Lab scientist Will Stringfellow, who is leading the Lab’s work on the lithium extraction projects. “At Berkeley Lab we have broad experience in geothermal systems, geochemical modeling, and characterization of the chemical reactions. For these projects we’re helping with experimental design, data collection and analysis, process validation, and technoeconomic analysis.”

The interest in critical materials extends to the federal level as well. The U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) recently announced $30 million in funding for next-generation technologies for extracting, separating, and processing rare-earth elements and other battery-critical materials used in clean energy technologies.

“The challenge is not simply lithium extraction. It’s a complex tangle of chemical, engineering, economics, and supply chain issues,” said Peter Fiske, director of Berkeley Lab’s Water-Energy Resilience Research Institute. “As a multidisciplinary national lab, we have robust research programs spanning the entire ecosystem of energy storage: from geothermal energy to lithium-ion battery technology to energy systems analysis. Our expertise is well-suited to tackle this challenge and provide national security on a critical mineral needed for energy storage, which is essential for our energy future.”

For further details on the projects and the role of Berkeley Lab see full article via the link below.

Source: Berkeley Lab