Eramet and Électricité de Strasbourg (ÉS) announce the success of the first pilot test to extract lithium from geothermal brine in Alsace, France.

This is a world first in the field of lithium: the Eramet group, in partnership with Electricité de Strasbourg, has succeeded in extracting lithium from geothermal brine during pilot-scale tests conducted early 2021 at the Rittershoffen geothermal power plant (northern Alsace), which has been operated by ÉS for the past five years.

Eramet’s teams used the groundbreaking direct lithium extraction process developed as part of its Centenario Lithium project, which aims to extract lithium from the brines contained in a salar in Argentina. This process, for which several patents have been granted, is based on an innovative material developed by Eramet and IFP Energies nouvelles (IFPEN). It has been adapted to work with hot brines under the pressure conditions used to produce heat and electricity in the Rhine Rift Valley.

This is a major step forward for the European Geothermal Lithium Brine (EuGeLi) project, headed by Eramet and Electricité de Strasbourg, along with BRGM, IFPEN and BASF, and which receives European funding from EIT-Raw Materials. The purpose of EuGeLi is to exploit the geothermal brines of the Franco-German basin.

Launched in 2019, EuGeLi is set to expand in 2021 with the scaling up of the extraction process in order to produce lithium carbonate, an essential component of lithium-ion batteries. The lithium market is experiencing very strong demand due to the rapid growth of the electric vehicles market and energy storage applications for intermittent renewable energies. By the end of the year, this program should make it possible to assess the economic potential of geothermal lithium extraction.

From Eramet’s standpoint, “this initial extraction of lithium from geothermal sources confirms the technical potential of this process, which could ultimately be instrumental in the crucial task of securing the raw materials essential to Europe’s energy transition.”

For its part, Électricité de Strasbourg points out that “this successful exploitation of geothermal resources from its production sites further validates its vision for the responsible development of renewable energies in Alsace.”