Lithium production from geothermal brine – soon reality at the Salton Sea?

Lithium production from geothermal brine – soon reality at the Salton Sea? Hudson Ranch I, California, U.S. (source: EnergySource)
Alexander Richter 29 Oct 2016

Geothermal operator EnergySource is testing new extraction technology that could see Lithium production from geothermal brine becoming a reality and much welcomed additional revenue stream for the company.

Over the years we have been reporting on the ambitious plans of extracting Lithium from geothermal brine at the Salton Sea.

A very hyped up company called Simbol Materials was very close to it, with a strong interest by Tesla Motors and an actual offer of $325m to buy the company. Electric car manufacturer Tesla is in dire need to supply Lithium for its ambitious electric car and battery plans, as well as its soon to start operating Gigafactory which is to build batteries for Tesla.

But Simbol Materials failed and seems to have closed shop, why is a bit unclear.

The company producing geothermal brine that was to be used for the extraction of Lithium is now picking up were Simbol Materials failed, so a recent report by local paper The Desert Sun.

Energy Source is operating a 50 MW geothermal power plant at the Salton Sea and is – as reported – “testing a new process to extract lithium and other metals from the underground brine it uses to generate electricity, according to Eric Spomer, the company’s president and chief executive.”

Results of earlier tests seem to be promising enough that there is a significant interest by investors, with an investment group recently having acquired a 38.5% stake in Energy Source.

The company is now planning further testing of its extraction process.

If successful, this could provide a great and significant new revenue stream for the company and provide hope for several other geothermal operators and developers at the Salton Sea.

EnergySource is not revealing exactly how it is planning to extract lithium from geothermal brine, but describes it as proven technology different to the completely new technology that Simbol Materials was planning to apply.

With an increasing demand for electric batteries, Lithium is an increasingly valuable and much needed resource to fuel the demand for electric cars and the batteries powering them.

Source: The Desert Sun