As Lithium Provide Battle Heats Up, Stellantis Pays A $100 Million Go to To Hell’s Kitchen

The race to provide the worldwide auto business with sufficient lithium to gasoline the switchover from gasoline to lithium-ion EV batteries is churning into excessive gear. The environmental prices may be excessive until the lithium provide chain focuses on lower-impact extraction applied sciences. Stress from automakers would assist steer lithium stakeholders in a extra sustainable course, and Stellantis has simply upped the ante with a $100 million funding within the Hell’s Kitchen lithium challenge.

Geothermal Brine For The US Lithium Provide Chain

Hell’s Kitchen is the relatively poetic identify for a geothermal brine challenge situated on the Salton Sea in California.

The challenge got here throughout the CleanTechnica radar in 2021, after we seen that the US Division of Power has been eyeballing geothermal brine extraction as a method to stimulate the US geothermal business whereas pumping up the nation’s home lithium provide chain.

That’s extra sophisticated than it could appear. Geothermal brine has been described as a “wealthy stew” of dissolved supplies, of which lithium is just one. The problem is to develop a cheap method to separate lithium from a stew that’s not solely wealthy but additionally scorching.

“To visualise how advanced and delicate the extraction course of is, think about you’re flipping for baseball playing cards, besides your whole playing cards are caught collectively and they’re on fireplace,” we noticed.

How It Began…

The corporate Managed Thermal Assets (CTR) is the developer behind the Hell’s Kitchen challenge. The challenge launched within the fall of 2021 with a comparatively modest footprint and was billed as “the world’s first, totally built-in, new geothermal-lithium facility to start building.”

The Salton Sea already hosted 450 megawatts’ price of geothermal power era by 2021. Preliminary plans for the Hell’s Kitchen plant included one other 50 megawatts at temperatures starting from 550–650 levels Fahrenheit.

On the manufacturing aspect, CTR anticipated about metric 20,000 tonnes of lithium hydroxide per 12 months, together with the potential to supply potassium, zinc, and different substances.

…How It’s Going

Within the two years since then, CTR’s lithium provide challenge has remodeled right into a soup-to-nuts EV battery ecosystem.

“We aren’t simply ‘suppliers of lithium’. We’re working with our strategic companions to ship options that assist the rising battery provide chain,” CTR famous in a Q3 replace on its web site.

The replace describes two most important tasks on the website. One includes the potential to co-locate a cathode lively supplies facility on the Hell’s Kitchen website. “We all know this removes transport dangers and prices, lowers C02 emissions, and removes substantial CAPEX and OPEX from bagging, logistics, and de-bagging operations,” CTR noticed.

The opposite challenge carries ahead the thought of separating different  supplies from geothermal brine along with boosting the lithium provide. Particularly, CTR estimates that it might get better 5 occasions the quantity of manganese than lithium from its geothermal brine. The corporate anticipates it might obtain these outcomes with out crimping its lithium manufacturing timeline. They count on to conduct assessments on “dwell” brine someday this 12 months to discover the topic additional.

Observe The Cash

Stellantis, for one, has noticed a possibility. On August 17 the corporate introduced a $100 million-plus funding to assist develop the lithium provide challenge.

Neglect the preliminary projection of 20,000 metric tonnes of lithium carbonate per 12 months. As described by Stellantis, Hell’s Kitchen is “the world’s largest geothermal lithium challenge with a complete useful resource capability to supply as much as 300,000 metric tons of lithium carbonate equal.”

“Moreover, the businesses expanded the preliminary provide settlement, which now requires CTR to provide as much as 65,000 metric tons of battery-grade lithium hydroxide monohydrate (LHM) every year over a 10-year contract time period,” Stellantis notes. “This new settlement incorporates the unique lithium provide settlement signed by each firms in June 2022 for as much as 25,000 metric tons of LHM per 12 months.”

If all goes in accordance with plan, Hell’s Kitchen will start producing LHM for Stellantis in 2027.

The plan might additionally contain Common Motors, which reportedly put up some huge bucks again in 2021 to nail down first dibs on the Hells’ Kitchen lithium provide — until they dropped the thought someplace alongside the best way. CleanTechnica is reaching out to CRT for an replace on that.

A Extra Sustainable Lithium Provide, That Is

The environmental and human rights points bedeviling the worldwide lithium provide chain have been nicely documented, together with impacts associated to power consumption, water sources, open pit mining and evaporation lagoons.

The US has an opportunity to get it proper, primarily as a result of little or no lithium mining is happening right here at the moment. The one lithium mine at present working within the US is the Silver Peak mine in Nevada, which dates again to the Sixties.

Now the stress is on to extend the home provide of lithium to fulfill the rising demand for electrical autos, and conflicts are already arising. One instance is the brand new Thacker Go lithium mine in Nevada, the place work is below method regardless of livid pushback from native tribes and ranchers in addition to environmentalists.

NASA has additionally weighed in on the Biden administration’s plans to lease federal lands to spice up the home lithium provide chain.

“An historical Nevada lakebed beckons as an enormous supply of the coveted ingredient wanted to supply cleaner electrical power and struggle international warming,” the Related Press reported in June. “However NASA says the identical website — flat as a tabletop and undisturbed like none different within the Western Hemisphere — is indispensable for calibrating the razor-sharp measurements of a whole lot of satellites orbiting overhead.”

Geothermal brine tasks may also contain land use conflicts, however to not the identical extent concerned in open pit mining. Although plans to co-locate different amenities on the Hell’s Kitchen campus will increase its footprint significantly, the geothermal energy plant and lithium provide operation solely takes up about 50 acres. In distinction, the Silver Peak lithium mine spans 13,000 acres. The Thacker Go challenge includes 6,000 acres of mining exercise over a parcel of public land spanning 9 sq. miles, and a proposed lithium mine in North Carolina will embody 4 open pits overlaying 1,500 acres.

As well as, the Hell’s Kitchen system is designed to run on renewable power with out the necessity for evaporation lagoons. The spent brine is returned underground.

Recovering lithium from spent EV batteries might additionally assist alleviate a few of these points. Amongst different latest battery recycling strikes, final fall GM put up a stake in Collection A financing for the recycling agency Lithion. Stellantis has additionally firmed up its end-of-life technique below a three way partnership with Galloo, introduced in June.

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Picture: Hell’s Kitchen geothermal energy plant and lithium provide facility with proposed EV battery operations, courtesy of CTR.


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