Successful production of battery-grade geothermal lithium carbonate, France

Successful production of battery-grade geothermal lithium carbonate, France Geothermal Plant at Soultz-sous-Forets, France (source: ThinkGeoEnergy, creative commons)
Alexander Richter 18 Dec 2021

EU-led research project successfully produces battery-grade lithium carbonate from geothermal brines at the Soultz-sous-Forets geothermal plant in Alsace, France.

The EuGeLi (European Geothermal Lithium Brine) project ends with a success: the first kilograms of battery-grade lithium carbonate from European geothermal water have just been produced by the teams of Eramet Ideas, the Group’s R&D and innovation center.

This is a first of kind because the lithium contained in this water has been extracted inline at high temperature and under pressure on the operating site of Soultz-sous-Forets (Bas-Rhin) operated by our partner Electricité de Strasbourg Géothermie. The extraction process uses an active solid developed by Eramet, in collaboration with IFPEN, to extract the lithium contained in its lithium deposit in Argentina and finally adapted to the temperature and pressure conditions of geothermal water.

This success closes the European Geothermal Lithium Brine (EuGeLi) project, a research collaboration, headed by Eramet and Electricité de Strasbourg, along with BRGM, IFPEN and BASF, and which receives European funding from EIT-Raw Materials. The purpose of EuGeLi has been to exploit the geothermal brines of the Franco-German basin.

The technical objectives have been achieved. The next steps will consist in optimizing the economic model in order to assess whether a competitive lithium production scheme for batteries is possible, on an industrial scale, in addition to renewable energy, all made in France and CO2-free.

In May 2021, the project reported on its success of the pilot-scale tests at the Rittershofen geothermal site in northern Alsace, France. Here on  the site  of Électricité de Strasbourg (ÉS), the Eramet group extracted lithium from geothermal brine.

Eramet’s teams used the groundbreaking direct lithium extraction process developed as part of its Centenario Lithium project, which aims to extract lithium from the brines contained in a salar in Argentina.  This  process, for which  several  patents  have  been  granted, is based  on  an innovative material  developed  by  Eramet and IFP  Energies nouvelles  (IFPEN). It has been adapted to work with hot brines under the pressure conditions used to produce heat and electricity in the Rhine Rift Valley.

Launched in 2019, EuGeLi is set to expand in 2021 with the scaling up of the extraction process in order to produce lithium carbonate, an essential component of lithium-ion batteries. The lithium market is experiencing very strong demand due to the rapid growth of the electric vehicles market and energy storage applications for intermittent renewable energies.

Source: ERAMET/ EUGeLI project