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Direct lithium extraction (brine) (geothermal)

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Technology Description

Direct lithium extraction (DLE) from brine at concentrations from 50 to over 500 mg/l using adsorption (acid solution required for exchange), ion exchange or solvent extraction (organic liquid exchange). Proven pilot projects in Canada, France, United States, Germany and Argentina. Columbia and UK projects 2022/23 (UK deployment 2022). Traditional geothermal lithium brine extraction involves evaporative brine processing. Brine is pumped into a series of large ponds at the surface, occupying large tracts of land (1 000 m2) where water evaporates leaving a highly concentrated lithium brine (>6 000 mg/kg) that is then sent onwards for processing.

Relevance for Net Zero

The report The Role of Critical Minerals in Clean Energy Transitions (2021, IEA) identified lithium as a mineral needed for batteries and other technologies. Supply to reach net-zero projections is insufficient. Geothermal brines offer a broad supply base supporting domestic energy security. Technology for extraction is in demonstration phases. However, further research to identify scale-up issues (including lack of local processing capabilities) is needed.

Key Countries

United States, Germany, France, Canada, Argentina

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