Lithium extraction from geothermal targeted by projects in Germany and France

Geothermal power plant at Insheim, Germany (source: Pfalzwerke geofuture)
Alexander Richter 21 Jun 2020

Geothermal groups on both sides of the French-German border alongside the Upper Rhine Valley are targeting the extraction of Lithium from geothermal fluids, described as an important puzzle for Lithium supply for Europe in the global e-mobility context.

In an article shared by our partner TiefeGeothermie in Germany, the increasing interest in Lithium extraction from geothermal brine receives is described in the context of wider attention to the topic in general German media.

The article reports that test facilities for the extraction of lithium from the geothermal deep water are to be built at the geothermal sites in Bruchsal and Insheim, both geothermal sites in Germany. Lithium and various extraction methods for this were in the focus of the recent IGC Online Meeting: Upper Rhine Graben on June 17th.

Lithium in geothermal deep waters in the Upper Rhine Graben has been a hotly debated topic for quite some time with a recent uptick. The background is that lithium extraction could serve for the production of electric vehicle batteries in Germany. Last week saw several articles in the large German publications of Frankfurter Allgemeine Sonntagszeitung, Spiegel Online and in the Welt am Sonntag.

The focus is on the Australian company Vulcan Energy Resources Ltd., which has applied for and received, among other things, two exploration fields for salts, ores and geothermal energy in the Baden-Württemberg part of the Upper Rhine Trench – Mannheim and Ortenau. In November 2019, Vulcan Energy and Pfalzwerke Geofuture GmbH signed a letter of intent to work together on lithium extraction at the geothermal site in Insheim.

German and French companies are involved

The lithium levels in the deep waters of the Upper Rhine Trench range from 150 to 200 mg / l. And this applies to the systems on both the German and French sides. While receiving a lot of the attention, it is not only Vulcan Energy in Insheim that is planning to extract the element that is important for e-mobility, but also ÉS Geothermie, a subsidiary of Électricité de Strasbourg, which is involved in an EU research project that is to develop an extraction method.

Energy supplier EnBW also wants to build a demonstration plant for the production of lithium chloride, as project manager Dr. Thomas Kölbel is quoted in the Welt am Sonntag: “It worked quite well in the laboratory, now we try a demonstration system.”

Lithium and geothermal energy – several advantages

The advantage of lithium from deep water is that there is multiple use together with the generation of energy from geothermal energy, which increases the efficiency of the drilling. In addition, smaller amounts of water are required than for the extraction from salars in South America.

With its own lithium funding, Europe could become more independent of imports of an important raw material for the expansion of e-mobility. Michael Schmidt, an expert at the Federal Institute for Geosciences and Natural Resources (BGR) summarizes this in the Welt am Sonntag as follows: “The potential of European projects could serve the local lithium demand for cell production to a considerable extent.”

At the IGC Online Meeting: Upper Rhine Graben on June 17, 2020 various projects were presented based on their plans for lithium production.

Source: TiefeGeothermie