31 Mar 2021, 13:46
Sören Amelang

CO2-neutral geothermal lithium project plans full traceability in 'world-first'

Clean Energy Wire

A geothermal extraction project in Germany is set to produce the world's first fully certified CO2-neutral lithium, a key ingredient for electric car batteries, according to the companies involved. Australian Vulcan Energy, which is aiming to become the world's first producer of zero carbon lithium for EV batteries, has teamed up with British traceability specialist Circulor "to establish the first full lithium traceability and dynamic CO2 measurement solution," the companies announced, adding that the project is a "world-first for the lithium sector." 

Circulor, which already boasts major clients such as Volvo and Daimler, said its technology will be implemented in Vulcan's "upcoming lithium supply contracts with European [carmakers] to help them meet their sustainability objectives for material traceability and CO2 transparency." Production is planned to start in 2024, following a pilot project. Vulcan plans to produce both renewable geothermal energy and lithium hydroxide for batteries in Germany's Upper Rhine Valley, which "can satisfy Europe's needs for the electric vehicle transition, from a zero-carbon source, for many years to come." But sceptics have questioned whether geothermal lithium production can become economically viable, and some local citizens and politicians oppose the project over fears that geothermal drilling might lead to small earthquakes. 

Lithium production has been dominated by Australia in the past years, followed by Chile, Argentina and China. The world's largest lithium deposits are concentrated in three South American countries, namely Bolivia, Chile and Argentina, which together hold about 60 percent of currently available resources. In this so-called 'lithium triangle' in the arid Atacama Desert region, water consumption for lithium extraction from salt brine has become a major concern.

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