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International 14. Sep 2021

Geothermal Lithium: The Final Frontier of deep Decarbonization

by A. Grant

Principal, Jade Cove Partners, San Francisco, CA USA 94102. Email: ag@jadecove.com
Keywords: lithium, brine, geothermal lithium, direct lithium extraction, DLE, technology, extraction, life cycle assessment, LCA


Geothermal lithium chemical compounds for battery manufacturing are a compelling option for deep decarbonization of the industrial economy.

In this presentation, we quantify this decarbonization opportunity. This includes the results of prospective life cycle assessment (LCA) models for two geothermal lithium projects in development. Due to their ability to produce low CO2 intense power and lithium simultaneously, we find that the lowest CO2 intensity lithium chemicals in 2030 will likely come from geothermal lithium operations, if they are built.

We compare geothermal brine projects to evaporative brine projects, another low CO2 source of lithium compounds. Not needing to evaporate the water from the brine means that geothermal lithium consumes ~100x less energy than evaporative brine processes (both very low carbon energy sources). And because geothermal energy is ~100x more dense on the surface of the Earth, it means overall ~10,000x more lithium can be produced from the same square meter of Earth in a geothermal lithium project compared to an evaporation pond.

Supply chain stakeholders like cathode manufacturers should help these projects get built if their customers value low embodied emissions of EV manufacturing.