Germany could use geothermal wells to cover part of lithium needs – researchers
Clean Energy Wire
Germany could cover a sizable portion of its lithium needs in the coming decades by extracting the metal from existing geothermal wells, researchers have calculated. Lithium is a vital part of the energy transition as it is used to make batteries. "Theoretically, existing geothermal power plants in the Upper Rhine Graben and the North German Basin could cover between two and twelve percent of Germany's annual lithium demand," said Valentin Goldberg from the Institute for Applied Geosciences (AGW), which is part of the Karlsruhe Institute of Technology (KIT). Instead of using conventional mining, the method analysed by the researchers involves extracting lithium from thermal waters. "According to our findings, mining is possible with low environmental costs over many years.”
To calculate the potential for lithium production, the researchers first calculated how much water can be extracted from geothermal wells, and the amount of lithium this water contains. They then analysed how much of it can be extracted per unit of time. They did not make a detailed analysis of the technical and economic feasibility of extraction. On the way to climate neutrality, Europe needs a lot of lithium for battery storage, but so far it produces only one percent of the world's output, KIT said. The possibility of lithium extraction is an important argument for the rollout of geothermal energy, the researchers said. A single geothermal power plant could cover up to three percent of Germany's annual lithium demand, they added.