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GM to Source Lithium from California, Invests in Brine Operation
General Motors announced plans to work with a California-based lithium extraction and geothermal energy company, Controlled Thermal Resources
The American auto manufacturer, General Motors (GM) recently announced plans to work with a California-based lithium extraction and geothermal energy company, Controlled Thermal Resources (CTR). The company is developing a lithium and power generation facility in the Hell’s Kitchen geothermal field in the Salton Sea.
CTR uses a closed loop process that extracts brine from the subsurface, separates the steam from the geothermal source which is used to drive a turbine to generate electricity, and also reacts the steam with the brine to separate lithium hydroxide and lithium carbonate, the key ingredients used in electric battery cell production.
The water and brine are then pumped back into the ground. Unlike traditional mining, this leaves no tailings and the whole process produces renewable energy with no carbon emissions.
GM made a commitment to invest $35 billion in EVs and autonomous vehicles, this investment in CTR and it’s Hell’s Kitchen project marks the first ”multi-million dollar” step towards fulfilling that commitment. The exact amount was not disclosed.
As the first investor, GM will have first rights on lithium produced by the first stage of the Hell's Kitchen project, including an option to renew. The first phase of the Hell’s Kitchen development is expected to start delivering lithium in 2024.
The lithium provided from this operation will provide the some of the material for GMs planned production line for 20 electric vehicle models by 2023 at its new battery production facilities.
In early 2020, GM announced a $2.3-billion joint venture with LG chem to produce battery cells. The joint venture company, Ultium Cells, has two lithium ion cell production plants under construction with two more planned to be in production by 2025.
These four factories will have a total capacity of 140 GWh per year of cells and will require significant inputs of lithium in the manufacturing of batteries.
Most of the lithium used for batteries today comes from either South American or Australian lithium brines and hard rock mines and it is processed in China. The US is currently under pressure to secure its supply lines for a renewable energy transition.
Standard Lithium is also developing a patented direct lithium extraction method from bines found in the Smackover formation of South Central Arkansas.
Extraction of lithium from brine offers a quicker timeline to production than the traditional methods of lithium.
There 146 technical reports for lithium projects on Prospector Portal.
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