Eramet and Electricité de Strasbourg Launch Geothermal Lithium Extraction Pilot in Alsace

Eramet and Electricité de Strasbourg Launch Geothermal Lithium Extraction Pilot in Alsace

First Industrial Pilot for Geothermal Lithium Extraction

Eramet, in partnership with Electricité de Strasbourg (ÉS), has inaugurated their first industrial pilot plant for direct extraction of geothermal lithium in Rittershoffen, Alsace. This innovative project aims to contribute significantly to France’s lithium needs, targeting 10-15% of the country’s requirements by 2030.

Pilot Plant Details

The pilot plant, modest in size but high in ambition, consists of three-meter-high metal columns, a tank, and several containers connected by numerous pipes and sensors. It is designed to capture around 100 kilograms of lithium in six months by treating the geothermal waters sourced from deep beneath the Alsace region. The plant operates by bringing up salt water heated to 168°C from over 2,500 meters deep in the Rhine Graben’s granite faults.

Water Reuse and Environmental Considerations

In line with environmental sustainability, all water used in the process is re-injected back into the Alsatian subsoil. This approach ensures a low-carbon footprint and promotes a short supply chain, aligning with the ecological transition’s goals.

Ambitious Production Goals

To achieve the target of 10,000 tonnes of lithium by 2030, Eramet and ÉS plan to install additional wells. These would correspond to approximately five doublets, as mentioned by Mohamed Hamdani, Director of Industry and Territorial Relations at ÉS Group. The exact locations for these new wells are still under consideration.

Lithium Extraction Process

Eramet aims to adapt the direct extraction process it developed for Argentina to the Alsace pilot. This process involves using an active solid, similar to a “lithium sponge,” to selectively recover lithium and then rinse it with water to obtain concentrated lithium chloride. Despite the low concentration of lithium in Alsace’s geothermal waters, Eramet has successfully demonstrated over 90% recovery efficiency in initial pilots.

Future Developments

Eramet’s diversification into battery metals is a strategic shift from its traditional focus on metals for stainless steel. The company is set to open its first lithium carbonate plant in Argentina in the first half of 2024. A final investment decision for the Alsace project is expected by late 2026, which could include establishing a refining plant in the region. icon

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