Geothermal lithium extraction, a possibility also for Italy?
(Sustainabilityenvironment.com) – What is the potential of geothermal lithium in Italy? From this question comes the agreement signed by Enel Green Power and Vulcan Energy, and aimed at a first study of the sector. The work will start from Lazio and more precisely from an area of 11.5 square kilometers in the city of Cesano, just outside Rome, a very interesting region for geological purposes. Samples of “hot brine” with a high lithium content have been found here since the 1970s. A resource that has now become strategic and essential.
Currently, this metal is obtained from two main sources: open-pit mines and large evaporation basins of salt pans. But the former are scarce and the latter is more “difficult” to treat, also involving serious impacts on the environment and local communities. Not only that. To date, production is in the hands of a few countries such as Australia, Chile, China and Argentina. And the processing and refining operations further restrict the market, fueling a dangerous dependency relationship.
This is why in recent years a third, much more sustainable and less binding way has emerged: that of geothermal lithium.
The Zero Carbon LithiumTM road
In this case, lithium is extracted from hypersaline fluids that are normally reinjected into the subsoil downstream of the geothermal production cycle. For Vulcan Energy this is nothing new. The company has already set up its first commercial plant of lithium hydroxide from geothermal salmon in Germany. Now it is ready to combine its expertise in the field with that of Enel Green power in geothermal energy to develop joint initiatives.
The collaboration involves a gradual approach that, in a first phase of exploratory study, will evaluate the potential of the “Cesano” license of Vulcan. Examining further development prospects in terms of geothermal lithium also outside the Lazio site. “With the growth and diversification of our project development portfolio, we aim to develop a globally relevant business in the Zero Carbon LithiumTM segment that is focused on Europe and Europe,” said Francis Wedin, General Manager of Vulcan. “We welcome the opportunity to collaborate with Enel Green Power in the development of geothermal lithium. As the largest producer of renewable geothermal energy in Italy, Enel Green Power is a leader in its sector and has strong and positive relationships in the region”.