UK pilot plant produces first lithium from geothermal water
A UK pilot plant in Cornwall has successfully produced lithium from geothermal water for the first time.
The Direct Lithium Extraction (DLE) plant was developed by GeoCubed, a joint venture between Cornish Lithium and Geothermal Engineering (GEL). It uses the Li-Capt DLE technology from Swedish company GeoLith to process 140 m3 of deep geothermal water successfully obtained during GEL’s testing at its site at United Downs in Cornwall.
This could provide a local, sustainable supply of lithium for batteries rather than having to source the material from China or Australia that uses mining or large evaporation pools. Vulcan Energy Resources in Germany is also exploring extracting lithium from geothermal water.
Cornish Lithium has now agreed to acquire the remaining 10% shareholding in GeoCubed to make it a wholly-owned subsidiary.
The £4.0 million Pilot Plant is being supported by the Cornwall and Isles of Scilly Local Enterprise Partnership with £2.9 million from the UK Government’s Getting Building Fund. The Pilot Plant was successfully commissioned at the end of March, on time and on budget.
The pilot plant is expected to confirm that lithium can be produced in Cornwall from geothermal waters and provide sufficient information to enable the design of a commercial lithium plant in the County.
Several different DLE technologies will be tested at the plant during the year with a view to establishing the preferred technology for future DLE plants in Cornwall. The Pilot Plant has been designed to be as flexible as possible and has been constructed in standard 6.1 metre (20ft) containers, enabling relocation to different sites to test new boreholes if required.
“We are delighted to announce that the United Downs DLE pilot plant has been successfully commissioned on time and on budget. This is testament to the hard work and commitment of the GeoCubed team and our technology partners at GeoLith. The Pilot Plant will be a great asset for the Company as we work to establish the most appropriate DLE technology with which to process Cornish geothermal waters,” said Jeremy Wrathall, CEO and Founder of Cornish Lithium.
“I am also pleased that we have been able to reach an agreement with GEL to acquire their shareholding in GeoCubed so that it is now a wholly-owned subsidiary of Cornish Lithium. This will allow us to fully integrate GeoCubed within Cornish Lithium and benefit from the engineering expertise of its team across our portfolio of projects. Importantly, all ten jobs that were created during the project will be retained in Cornwall,” he said.
Also in Cornwall, British Lithium has developed a novel, environmentally friendly process for extracting battery grade lithium from Cornish granite.
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