GEL ready to extract lithium with geothermal process in Cornwall

UK geothermal energy company Geothermal Engineering Limited (GEL) has announced plans to produce significant quantities of lithium. GEL aims to produce enough carbon-free lithium as a by-product of its geothermal projects to power around 250,000 electric car batteries annually.

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From the end of 2024 onwards, Geothermal Engineering Limited (GEL) plans to produce around 100 tons of lithium annually in Cornwall, UK, rising to at least 1,000 tons annually by 2026 as a by-product of its geothermal brine in electricity production.

The company already has permission for two further geothermal plants in Cornwall, with which lithium production is to be increased to over 12,000 tons per year by 2030 – which the company notes, as an example, is enough for 250,000 electric car batteries.

In Cornwall, increasingly getting attention for its lithium deposits, GEL claims to have measured one of the highest concentrations of geothermal lithium in Europe in initial deep drilling at the Redruth site in the English county of Cornwall. According to the Financial Times, the company also seeks to raise £600 million to build multiple sites and diversify into lithium. The United Downs site in Cornwall has already secured financing to produce geothermal power.

Lithium mining in Cornwall is being coveted by a number of firms keen to find an onshore supply of lithium for its hopeful electric car industry. GEL is just one of several companies tapping into the emerging lithium hub in the district. Cornish Lithium and Imergys British Lithium are also developing prospects in the area.

Earlier this year, Imerys and British Lithium announced they were preparing to mine lithium in Cornwall. British Lithium has been drilling and exploring on Imerys’ Cornwall site since 2017. The British company has also installed a pilot plant on site. In June 2023, Imerys took over 80 per cent of British Lithium for an undisclosed price and aims to extract lithium from Cornwall via its joint venture in the future. The partners aim to make Cornwall “the leading lithium hub in the UK” and achieve annual production of 20,000 tonnes of lithium carbonate by the end of the decade, which Imerys says should be enough to produce 500,000 electric car batteries a year, meeting about two-thirds of the UK’s estimated battery demand by 2030 (“when all UK car manufacturers switch to electric vehicles”).

In August this year, Cornish Lithium, a startup seeking to mine the precious resource in its home county of Cornwall, secured 53.6 million pounds (67 million dollars) to open its first mine in Britain. The UK Infrastructure Bank leads the investment as part of a larger funding round of up to £168 million.

For GEL, the advantages of extracting lithium in an environmentally friendly manner while providing electricity are clear. The company plans to provide 25 megawatts of electricity, 100 megawatt hours of heat, and 12,000 tonnes of lithium. The company points out that this is enough heat and power for 70,000 homes and the aforementioned 250,000 cars, which could, of course, also be enough for numerous public transport vehicles and many more electric bikes if spread over different vehicle types.

Ryan Law, CEO of Geothermal Engineering Ltd, said, “We are extremely excited by the high concentration of lithium that we have found in our geothermal wells in Cornwall, as it will enable us to produce meaningful quantities of lithium without damaging the environment. Our ability to produce both zero-carbon lithium and zero-carbon baseload power will provide a foundation for the electric car market to be truly sustainable in the UK.”  In securing government support, GEL was most recently awarded £1.8m by the Automotive Transformation Fund (ATF) Scale up Readiness programme.

The CEO said that recent government grant funding awards and secure contracts for the electricity GEL produces is helping the company to secure the further investment required for a rapid rollout of projects “to enable the UK to reach its ambitious targets.”


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