Recovery of Lithium from Geothermal Brines

A cost-effective integrated process for the recovery of lithium from geothermal brines.

SRI International

Recipient

Menlo Park, CA

Recipient Location

13th

Senate District

24th

Assembly District

beenhere

$873,387

Amount Spent

closed

Completed

Project Status

Project Result

The project successfully demonstrated the laboratory-scale Integrated Lithium Capture System. The recipient has licensed the technology to ExSorbtion, Inc. who will be pursuing commercialization.

The Issue

Expansion of geothermal energy production in California will greatly benefit from the creation of a value stream produced by the recovery of useful metals from geothermal fluids. The efficient separation of metals, such as lithium, from geothermal brines promises to make the production of geothermal power more economically favorable. Revenue will be produced from the sale of the marketable metals, and the scaling and re-injection issues associated with the high-solid-content brines will be minimized.

Project Innovation

This project demonstrated a cost-effective integrated process for the recovery of lithium from geothermal brines based on: (1) new high-capacity selective composite sorbents comprised of inorganic lithium-ion sieves and lithium-ion-imprinted polymers; and (2) a new sorbent regeneration process using eco-friendly carbon dioxide/carbonic acid that leads to the direct formation of high-purity lithium carbonate (Li2CO3). Compared to traditional methods of Li recovery from brines, the high-capacity selective sorbents and their regeneration process are expected to lower the cost of Li production by enabling online separation with higher recovery efficiency, using smaller volumes of sorbents, and minimizing processing time. The project demonstrated a laboratory-scale integrated separation process for the production of high-purity Li2CO3 from geothermal brines.

Project Goals

Demonstrate a new low-cost process for the rapid and selective extraction of lithium from geothermal brines
Demonstrate a new selective high-capacity sorbent to capture lithium from the brine
Demonstrate new sorbent regeneration process that releases the lithium from the solid phase

Project Benefits

This project will lead to technological advancement by enabling co-production of power and high-value metals from geothermal resources. The co-production of metals will improve the economic viability of geothermal power production, therefore increasing the penetration of geothermal renewable energy.

Lower Costs

Affordability

The technology will lower the cost of geothermal energy production as a result of recovery of lithium from geothermal fluids. Co-production of lithium carbonate can offset $30/MWh from the cost of geothermal energy production.

Economic Development

Economic Development

According to a 2008 feasibility study sponsored by Imperial Irrigation District, developing geothermal resources in Imperial County could result in 7,000-9,000 new jobs, many likely higher paying than typical for the region.

Environmental & Public Health

Environmental Sustainability

The process is much more environmentally friendly than conventional methods to produce lithium.

Key Project Members

Project Member

Susanna Ventura

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