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Geothermal energy may be the panacea for sustainable lithium extraction

Geothermal energy may be the panacea for sustainable lithium extraction

Geothermal energy may be the panacea for sustainable lithium extraction
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By CNBCTV18.com Jan 20, 2022 9:08:21 PM IST (Published)

The process of extracting lithium is environmentally fraught. Usually mined from salt flats or quarries, lithium mining can lead to water pollution, air pollution, soil erosion and excessive water consumption. 

Lithium is one of the most expensive metals in the world. The lightest metal in the universe is a critical component of the ubiquitous lithium-ion batteries. These batteries are found everywhere, from mobile appliances to smartphones and even in electric vehicles. It is estimated that the demand for lithium is going to grow exponentially in the next few years as the world increases the rate of adoption of electric mobility. 

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According to S&P Global Market Intelligence, the demand for lithium will increase to 6,41,000 tonnes in 2022 from an estimated 5,04,000 tonnes in 2021, reported Bloomberg NEF. At the same time, supply will be only increasing to 6,36,000 tonnes. 
But the process of extracting lithium is environmentally fraught. Usually mined from salt flats or quarries, lithium mining can lead to water pollution, air pollution, soil erosion and excessive water consumption. 

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But geothermal energy provides a ready solution for efficient, sustainable and clean lithium extraction. Geothermal energy is energy found underneath the surface of the Earth, contained in the rocks and fluids under the crust. This energy is used to heat up salty water, called geothermal brine, which then turns to gas and is used to move turbines and generate electricity. 
But in addition to providing a clear, renewable source of energy with a low footprint, geothermal energy can also extract lithium. Lithium can be extracted in the form of the geothermal brine with nary the environmental cost of the traditional methods of extraction. 
“The combination of the granite rock being rich in lithium and hot water -- hot water can absorb more lithium -- means that the water that we bring to the surface at United Downs to drive our power plant has a very high lithium content,” explained Ryan Law, founder and managing director of Geothermal Engineering Ltd to CNBC. GEL is a company based in Cornwall, UK, and specialises in the operation and development of geothermal projects. 
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