Clean Lithium Extraction is Coming to the U.S., and Not a Moment Too Soon
Updated: Dec 12, 2022
Published Monday, Dec. 12, 2022
By Sebastian Lux, CEO
American Battery Materials Inc.
· The Biden administration has signaled its $2.8 billion support for American lithium and battery components exploration.
· It’s time to capitalize on new technology to support our needs.
As the U.S. energy debate rages on, one thing has become abundantly clear across political divides: lithium has been tagged as a critical mineral. This is happening as our dependence on far-flung sources has reached crisis levels. We are largely beholden to foreign players who control the market, constrain supply, and then dictate pricing.
It is time to unleash the power of clean extraction technologies to meet the ever-growing demand for lithium carbonate and herald a new generation of clean energy production within the continental U.S.
Thankfully, the Biden administration has signaled its willingness to promote innovative technologies related to the exploration and direct extraction of lithium related minerals and compounds. Direct grants to 20 companies in 12 states have already been awarded: FACT SHEET: Biden-Harris Administration Driving U.S. Battery Manufacturing and Good-Paying Jobs
“We are making electric vehicles more affordable for families, jumpstarting the first national EV charging network, and bringing in historic investments for EV battery manufacturing here at home. Electric vehicles are here to stay," President Biden said in November.
This development could prove to be a game changer, and it comes not a moment too soon. Currently, 100% of the lithium Americans consume is processed abroad. We are most heavily dependent on Chinese lithium, which accounts for roughly 65% of the world’s global supply.
Domestically, the U.S. produces approximately 1% of the world's lithium needs - almost all of it coming from Abermarle Corporation's Silver Peak facility in Nevada. Albemarle Corporation, based in Charlotte, N.C. has become the first of the world's large scale lithium companies with extensive plans to produce within the continental U.S., and they expect to double their current global output.
With additional projects poised to come online, states like Utah are becoming major players in the global lithium market.
According to the research firm Rystad Energy, the U.S. needs 900,000 metric tons of lithium by 2035. For context, we are currently producing 5,000 metric tons – a delta of 895,000 tons to meet long-term domestic production demand for the likes of Ford, Tesla, and GM.
For perspective, if 5,000 tons satisfies 1% of demand, that is enough lithium for 80,000 electric vehicles. Demand for EVs grew 62% in the first half of 2022 to 414,000 in the U.S. alone. According to some estimates, half of all cars sold in the U.S. will be electric with twenty-six million on the road by 2035.
Last month, the White House announced the aptly named American Battery Materials initiative – no relation to our company, but we welcome the shout out. The initiative is aimed at supporting the American Battery Industry at a time when it is sorely needed, injecting more than $2.8 billion into research and development projects across the country, with a focus on some key extraction territories.
The global environmental impact of corroding lithium extraction practices has troubling environmental impacts. The public and private markets are looking to embrace innovations in clean extraction technology that supports the nascent growth of the lithium market in the United States. Canada and Australia, among other countries, are making strides in their exploration methodologies, while companies closer to home, such as Lilac Solutions DLE, are making active inroads in the clean lithium production space.
The good news is that Direct Lithium Extraction (“DLE”) processes are coming online at exactly the right time. Offering much less disruptive and far cleaner extraction alternatives to traditional methodologies, DLE allows processors to extract lithium and other minerals from a brine solution, before returning the brine in a closed loop system. This process avoids major land disturbances in the surrounding area, both above and below ground. Ultimately, DLE allows us to maintain the environmental integrity of the landscape.
For the environmentally conscious among us, the DLE process is potentially a huge game changer which would allow us to support an electric future while being responsible stewards of the environment in the United States.
At American Battery Materials, Inc. (“ABM”), we are conducting an extensive review process on existing DLE technology to identify potential partners for various brine projects that ABM is considering in Utah’s Paradox Basin, and across the U.S. There is ample evidence that applying these technologies to current mining production facilities can also be leveraged to extract lithium domestically.
Lilac CEO Dave Snydacker recently told Reuters, “New technology is absolutely essential for society to obtain the volumes of lithium that are necessary for electric vehicles.”
The geological and processing research at ABM is centered around clean extraction technologies and areas that can best support our vision of being a key, environmentally responsible supplier to the U.S. lithium market. While these are early days, the opportunities domestically are rich – especially when it comes to deploying new, less harmful DLE technologies in areas that are open to exploration in the lithium space.
The lithium rush is on, and in the background, companies like ABM are exploring areas across the U.S. for potential exploration and ultimate extraction with a commitment to utilizing clean technologies in our process.
Sebastian Lux is the Chief Executive Officer at American Battery Materials, a U.S.-based critical minerals exploration and development company focused on direct lithium extraction (DLE), as well as other minerals for refining, processing, and distribution to support the country's urgent critical minerals need, and to bolster the long-term energy transition and the electrification of the U.S. domestic and global economy.