With demand expected to rise significantly in the coming decade on the back of electric vehicle sales and energy storage systems implementation, an increase in lithium production is inevitable. Roskill’s CO2 output and water consumption intensity analysis, detailed in the soon to be published Lithium Sustainability Monitor, provides an in-depth account of the sustainability of lithium production on an asset-by-asset basis, both in 2020 and over the next decade.
Forecast carbon intensity versus capital intensity of lithium operations
The figure above shows the potential landscape of the future lithium upstream sector, with all currently producing operations, as well as operations that Roskill sees a having the potential to come online over the next decade, dependent on demand case scenarios.
The trade-off in carbon intensity to capital intensity is immediately obvious with the lower capital intensity mineral operations producing a significantly higher emissions output.
Inversely, higher capital intensity brine operations and projects, and clay/sedimentary mineral projects, will benefit from lower carbon intensities over the course of their operational life.
When it comes to determining the true cost of production, investment in the lithium sector is being determined by far more than simply financial metrics. ESG (environmental, social and corporate governance) is becoming a growing concern, and one which will increase in relevance as lithium demand grows over the coming decade.