Geothermal Engineering, the company behind the UK’s first deep geothermal electricity power plant, has announced record levels of lithium in its waters.
Recent, third party tests have revealed that there are more than 250 milligrams per litre (‘mg/L’) in the geothermal fluid at the United Downs site in Cornwall.
That’s the highest concentration ever discovered in geothermal waters anywhere in the world, Geothermal Engineering said.
The company and its partners have also been trialling sustainable, zero carbon methods of removing the lithium from the fluid.
So far, they have managed to achieve a 95% extraction rate.
Testing has also shown that the magnesium concentration, a metal which can make processing more difficult and expensive, is extremely low.
Based on the findings of these tests, Geothermal Engineering is looking at the potential to produce 4,000 tonnes of lithium per year from the next sites it is planning by 2026.
Lithium is a naturally occurring metal found on almost every continent but is currently mined in South America and Australia.
It is then shipped to China for processing into battery-grade lithium before being transported to Europe for use in electric vehicles.
The whole process means that lithium-ion batteries incur a significant carbon footprint.
The Faraday Institution, a government-backed body set up in 2017 to promote the battery industry, estimates UK demand for lithium could reach 59,000 tonnes a year by 2035, based on projected growth.
Ryan Law, managing director of Geothermal Engineering, said: “Deep geothermal heat and power are already set to help the world reach net zero targets.
“The addition of lithium production with no carbon footprint or environmental damage will help to drive more geothermal projects forward in the UK and offer more opportunities for green jobs.
“If the UK is to reach the government target to produce only electric vehicles by 2035, we have to find more sustainable and geopolitically more reliable ways to deliver lithium batteries.
“Establishing meaningful onshore lithium production in the UK would also encourage a lithium-ion battery-based economy to develop in the UK and could attract further important inward investment opportunities for Cornwall and the Southwest.”
Geothermal Engineering recently announced that heads of terms have now been signed on the four new geothermal sites planned for Cornwall.
Each power station is expected to deliver 5 megawatt electrical of power, 24/7 to the National Grid, as well as 20 megawatts of heat energy for the local area.
The electricity produced from all four sites will be enough to power 45,000 homes.
Each plant will each take around 18 months to complete, with all four sites anticipated to be up and running by 2026.
Lithium tests will be conducted at each of the new sites as drilling gets underway.