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Sizing up the challenges in extracting lithium from geothermal brine

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Geothermal energy crops at the Salton Sea like this one, the John Featherstone aircraft, produce superheated brine, which is filled with lithium and different minerals. Berkeley Lab is advancing the science and expertise to make this a “green” supply of lithium for home battery manufacturing. Credit: Patrick Dobson/Berkeley Lab

If you had a jar of marbles of many alternative colours however needed solely the inexperienced ones, how might you effectively decide them out? What if it wasn’t marbles however a jar of glitter, and there was sand, glue, and dirt blended in? That begins to explain the complexity of the brine pumped out from beneath California’s Salton Sea as a part of geothermal vitality manufacturing.

For geothermal fields round the world, produced geothermal brine has been merely injected again underground, however now it is turn out to be clear that the brines produced at the Salton Sea geothermal area include an immense quantity of lithium, a important useful resource want for low-carbon transportation and vitality storage. Demand for lithium is skyrocketing, as it’s an important ingredient in . Currently there may be little or no lithium manufacturing in the U.S. and most lithium is imported; nonetheless, which will change in the close to future.

Researchers from the U.S. Department of Energy’s Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory (Berkeley Lab) have not too long ago revealed a complete assessment of previous and present applied sciences for extracting minerals from geothermal brine. The assessment, revealed in the journal Energies, discusses and evaluates a broad array of applied sciences used for extraction of lithium from brines. The assessment finds that geothermal brines in the Salton Sea area of California are anticipated to be a serious home supply of lithium in the future however that important technical challenges have to be overcome.

“One of the major drivers for developing domestic lithium resources now is that we will need a lot of lithium in the future.” stated Will Stringfellow, lead creator of the paper. “We are dependent on lithium that’s extracted from the earth in other countries—and it’s also processed overseas—so we don’t have any significant domestic battery production. But there are potentially a lot of lithium resources in the United States that could be exploited. So, we’re looking at whether those resources can be extracted and used in a really environmentally friendly manner, so that they’re truly ‘green’ lithium sources.”

Extraction of lithium from geothermal brines is anticipated to be significantly difficult. The brine is extraordinarily sizzling when it comes out of the subsurface, and it accommodates a wealthy stew of many dissolved minerals in addition to lithium. “It comes out at over 100 degrees Celsius,” Stringfellow stated. “So, you have to deal with the heat. And it’s very, very saline—about 25% by weight. There’s a lot of salt, meaning a lot of sodium, a lot of chloride. There’s also a lot of calcium and magnesium, and other things like iron and silicon. These are all materials that could potentially interfere with the extraction.”

Sizing up the challenges in extracting lithium from geothermal brine
The sizzling brine that comes up from the subsurface as a part of geothermal energy manufacturing at the Salton Sea in California is a wealthy stew of minerals, together with iron, magnesium, calcium, sodium, and lithium. Using numerous extraction strategies, lithium chloride could be extracted from the brine, then processed into different varieties for battery manufacturing. Credit: Jenny Nuss/Berkeley Lab

The Department of Energy (DOE) is in each geothermal vitality and the lithium provide chain, stated Stringfellow, who’s an skilled on industrial waste remedy and administration. “We were commissioned by DOE’s Geothermal Technologies Office to conduct an independent analysis of mineral extraction technology in the context of geothermal energy production,” he stated. “There have been previous reviews of individual fundamental processes, but this is, to our knowledge, the first comprehensive review that looked at the more applied-science side of the process.”

Stringfellow and co-author Patrick Dobson, lead of Berkeley Lab’s geothermal programs program, checked out the revealed literature and industrial and authorities stories, and carried out an intensive assessment of lithium extraction expertise patents. The most technologically superior methodology of lithium extraction is adsorption of lithium utilizing inorganic sorbents, however different promising applied sciences are additionally being developed. Inorganic molecular sieve ion-exchange sorbents are being utilized for extraction of lithium from brines, and the previous and present software of this expertise are mentioned in the paper.

Dobson and Stringfellow are members of the Lithium Resource Research and Innovation Center (LiRRIC), established at Berkeley Lab to develop science and expertise for sustainable home lithium extraction, refining, and supplies synthesis for purposes resembling batteries.

Recent initiatives have targeted on decide the chemical composition of sizzling in real-time, without having to chill it down, enabling higher course of management to maximise the effectivity of lithium extraction. They are also engaged on technoeconomic evaluation with two firms working at the Salton Sea—Berkshire Hathaway Energy and Controlled Thermal Resources—to see if lithium applied sciences could be performed in a means that makes it cost-competitive with different types of lithium manufacturing. These efforts are supported by the California Energy Commission and DOE’s Advanced Manufacturing Office.

“Berkeley Lab pioneered lithium battery technologies and is continuing to push the forefront of battery innovation by using natural resources and interacting equitably with the communities in which these resources reside,” stated Mike Whittaker, director of LiRRIC.

Geothermal brines might propel California’s inexperienced financial system

More data:
William T. Stringfellow et al, Technology for the Recovery of Lithium from Geothermal Brines, Energies (2021). DOI: 10.3390/en14206805

Sizing up the challenges in extracting lithium from geothermal brine (2021, November 29)
retrieved 29 November 2021
from https://techxplore.com/news/2021-11-sizing-lithium-geothermal-brine.html

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