Energy from deep: lithium project to promote battery raw material


In a geothermal power plant in the south of Rhineland-Palatinate, one of the most important raw materials for batteries could possibly be obtained from thermal water: lithium – a decisive factor for electromobility. “We currently assume that the prerequisites for the first pilot tests at the Insheim geothermal power plant will be available in about two years,” said Jörg Uhde, Managing Director of Pfalzwerke geofuture GmbH in Insheim (Palatinate).

In order to test possible lithium production from the thermal water of the Insheim geothermal power plant, the company had signed a letter of intent with its partner Vulcan Energy. “We hope that the technology required for this will be developed within a reasonable period of time and that additional value can be added to the geothermal power plant,” said Uhde. However, lithium production is only started if it is also economical.

With cobalt, lithium is one of the most important raw materials for batteries, but the two metals are also found in numerous high-tech products. The chemical element lithium is a so-called alkali metal, in batteries it is important in charged form for the storage of electricity. The lithium-ion battery is a basic technology for many applications, including smartphones and computers.

Uhde said that a possible pilot plant is under discussion in Insheim, but about the size and costs of which he cannot yet make any reliable statements. “Since the basics have to be worked out first, no application has been submitted to the State Office for Geology and Mining in Mainz.” The media had mentioned 2,000 tons of lithium a year that could be extracted. Uhde did not confirm this. The heat of water from the deep earth is used in geothermal plants. In the Upper Rhine Trench, the thermal water contains lithium, which is to be filtered off before it is returned to the ground.


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