US DoE invests in lithium sourcing technology

Image: Electra Battery Materials

At the end of July, the US Department of Energy (DOE) announced a funding initiative of 10.9 million dollars for 10 projects across nine states to develop technologies to extract and convert battery-grade lithium from geothermal brine sources in the USA.

The ten projects are focused on two topic area developments, namely the ‘Field Validation of Lithium Hydroxide Production from Geothermal Brines’ and the ‘Applied Research & Development for Direct Lithium Extraction from Geothermal Brines’. As the titles suggest, both focus exclusively on the collection of battery-relevant resources within the USA.

Most of the projects are being headed by various universities, from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign and the New Mexico Institute of Mining and Technology to more internationally known institutions, such as Stanford University, the University of Virginia or the Oak Ridge National Laboratory. Partnerships with major companies such as Chevron or the Xerion Advanced Battery Corporation will also help with the industrial integration of the efforts.

While the general outline for the projects is based on lithium extraction, the process itself so complex that the projects are quite varied. The funding is also varied: One project, ‘Environmentally Friendly, Fastest to Production, and Lowest Cost Direct Lithium Extraction Solution’ is being funded with 1,800,000 dollars, while another, titled ‘Simplified High Purity Direct Lithium Hydroxide Production from Salton Sea Brines’ will receive 5,000,000 dollars. The other projects are more in the 500,000  dollars ball-park

The initiators argue that the projects “will increase America’s access to cost-effective, domestic sources of this critical material needed for batteries for stationary storage and electric vehicles to meet the Biden-Harris Administration’s goals of 50% electric vehicle adoption by 2030 and a net-zero emissions economy by 2050”. Under the administration’s Inflation Reduction Act, the local sourcing of battery resources will be important, as the full subsidy amount will depend on where the vehicle and its components were built and assembled. Currently in order to qualify for half of the tax credit at 3,750 dollars, “40 per cent of the battery’s critical minerals must be extracted, processed or recovered in the US or in a country with which the US has a free trade agreement. That level will gradually rise to 80 per cent by 2027.” Interestingly enough, another oil company recently announced plans to become more involved with lithium mining with ExxonMobil.


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