17 Nov 2023

GEL to Produce Geothermal Lithium From Cornwall, UK Projects

17 Nov 2023  by thinkgeoenergy   

United Downs Deep Geothermal Project, Cornwall/ UK (source: GEL)
Geothermal Engineering Limited (GEL) has announced plans of producing around 10o tonnes of Lithium Carbon Equivalent (LCE) per year from the company’s geothermal projects in Cornwall, UK. This comes after the result of testing done at the deep geothermal wells at United Downs that indicated lithium concentrations of around 340 ppm in the geothermal fluid, which is one of the highest lithium concentrations found in any commercial geothermal lithium project in Europe.

GEL has already drilled two geothermal wells for the United Downs Deep Geothermal Project (UDDGP) – a production well that is 5275 meters deep, and a reinjection well that is 2393 meters deep. The United Downs project is expected to start producing power in 2024 and represents the UK’s first integrated deep geothermal power and heat project.

High lithium concentrations at the United Downs site had been reported as early as 2021. “There is a great deal of interest in direct lithium extraction from geothermal resources. We also have an attractive resource in Cornwall with a high lithium concentration. We don’t have all the answers to this equation quite yet, but we should make some big strides in this area towards actual production probably within the next 18 months,” said Ryan Law, CEO of GEL in an interview with ThinkGeoEnergy in early 2023.

GEL’s target to produce 100 tonnes per annum of LCE by late 2024 will be ramped up to at least 1,000 tonnes per annum by 2026. The company already has planning permission for two other geothermal projects in Cornwall and aims to rapidly expand production to over 12,000 tpa in the UK by 2030. This is enough to produce around 250,000 electric vehicle batteries for an average sized car*. To put this in context, this would have been 94% of the LCE needed to supply the 267,000 new Battery Electric Vehicles (BEVs) registered in the UK in 2022**.

GEL was recently awarded £1.8m by the Automotive Transformation Fund (ATF) Scale up Readiness programme. These funds will be used to fund the 100 tonnes per annum units.

“We are extremely excited by the high concentration of lithium that we have found in our geothermal wells in Cornwall as it will enable us to produce meaningful quantities of lithium without damaging the environment. Our ability to produce both zero-carbon lithium and zero-carbon baseload power will provide a foundation for the electric car market to be truly sustainable in the UK,” said Ryan Law.

“The importance of our projects is now being recognised by the Government with recent grant funding awards and secure contracts for the electricity we produce. This is helping us to secure the further investment required for a rapid roll out of projects to enable the UK to reach its ambitious targets.”

“Cornwall is in a unique position in hosting these significant lithium and geothermal reserves. We hope that establishing Cornwall as a significant hub for lithium-related activities alongside its exciting geothermal potential, new job opportunities and significant economic growth will be brought to the region.”

Jason Cheng, CEO and Co-Founder of Kerogen Capital, added: “The high concentration of lithium found at United Downs underpins GEL’s potential to fulfill a significant portion of the UK’s lithium demand. It is an extremely exciting and significant development. Securing the production of domestic zero-carbon lithium will be crucial to the UK’s energy transition, as the demand for batteries for applications such as EVs and grid scale storage continues to grow. We look forward to supporting GEL during this next phase of growth.”

* The average amount of lithium carbonate equivalent (LCE) per car is 47.4kg. Sources IEA, World Economic Forum, Reuters, Goldman Sachs. GEL production target is 12,000 tonnes of LCE per year. Therefore, number of cars per year is circa 250,000.

** According to the UK Government, 267,000 Battery Electric Vehicles (BEVs) were registered in 2022.


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