Eco Factor: Technique to extract lithium from geothermal wastewater.
California-based Simbol Mining has developed a new technique that can allow geothermal power plants to produce more than just renewable electricity. The technique could be used to extract lithium from geothermal waste water, a process that until now was considered impractical.
With global lithium consumption expected to increase threefold by 2020, researchers need to think of alternative techniques that can be used to produce lithium for the growing EV industry. Lithium is usually extracted from soil and requires a lot of water. The geothermal waters in Salton Sea are considered just as lithium-rich as the most productive brine lakes in Bolivia and Chile.
However, all previous attempts to extract lithium from geothermal waste water weren’t fruitful as it contains a high level of silicates, which clog equipment. The new technique, which is licensed from Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory in California, can be used to precipitate out the silicates so that they can be filtered.
Water then flows over a chemical resin that extracts lithium ions into a compound of lithium chloride, and the lithium-depleted water is returned to the ground. Simbol is now building its first demonstration plant, projected to produce about 1 ton of lithium metal a month, with larger facilities to follow.