GM Invests in Geothermal Lithium Extraction Project in California

Given the current state of battery technology, lithium is an essential material in most EV batteries. But most of it is sourced overseas. GM, in the midst of an EV push centered around its Ultium battery tech, wants to change that, announcing a major investment in a California lithium extraction project taking place at a geothermal energy plant near the Salton Sea. Given the battery pack size of a massive vehicle like the upcoming GMC Hummer EV, the appeal of significant local lithium production becomes clear.

Lithium is produced in several different ways. Some of it is dug out of the ground in clays and then processed. But lithium produced by at the Controlled Thermal Resources facility near Imperial, CA, is extracted from hot, lithium-rich brine pumped out of the ground. The brine is used to generate steam power, which is sold, and then the brine is processed to remove lithium and pumped back into the ground to re-heat. That means there’s no problematic evaporation ponds or tailings, or a large hole carved into a mountainside. It also should be relatively low-carbon impact, as the clean geothermal energy on-site will be used to process the lithium.

Of course, it’s not all rainbows in lithium extraction. Some fairly toxic chemicals are involved in the processing, and those need to be properly stored and disposed of. But consider that the carbon impact of locally-produced lithium is surely lower than transporting it in from abroad, which is part of the appeal of local lithium extraction.

And there’s a sizable amount of lithium at CTR’s California site, known as Hell’s Kitchen Lithium and Power. GM’s multi-million dollar investment in CTR means it’ll have first rights on the lithium produced by the project, which CTR says will reach 20,000 tons of lithium hydroxide per year in its Stage 1 level or production—all while producing up to 49.9 megawatts of clean energy for sale. The extraction process also produces various amounts of potassium, zinc, manganese, iron, and rubidium.

Reuters reports that CTR believes the lithium production could eventually reach 60,000 tons a year by mid-2024 ,enough to produce up to 6 million EVs. Lithium, it should be noted, can be processed into several derivatives, so production volume is generally reported in lithium carbonate equivalent (LCE) volumes. Using this standard of measurement, the global management firm McKinsey estimates that a typical 55 kWh EV battery contains the equivalent of 16 pounds of lithium carbonate, for reference.

GM says that a significant amount of the lithium it uses in its vehicles could eventually come from the Hell’s Kitchen project. In addition to the environmental benefits of local sourcing, GM and CTR both hope the resulting lithium will be “low-cost.” It all sounds promising, so here’s hoping it works out.

Source link

We will be happy to hear your thoughts

Leave a reply

Enable registration in settings - general
Compare items
  • Total (0)