GM to source US-based lithium for future EV batteries from CTR; closed-loop, direct-extraction process
General Motors has agreed to form a strategic investment and commercial collaboration with Controlled Thermal Resources (CTR) to secure sustainably produced lithium from the CTR’s Hell’s Kitchen Lithium and Power development, located in the Salton Sea Geothermal Field in California. This lithium will be produced from geothermal brine through a closed-loop, direct lithium extraction (DLE) process that results in a smaller physical footprint, no production tailing and lower carbon dioxide emissions when compared to traditional processes such as pit mining or evaporation ponds.
GM announced today that a “significant portion” of GM’s future battery-grade lithium hydroxide and carbonate could come from the Hell’s Kitchen development.
GM will be the first company to make a multi-million dollar investment in CTR’s Hell’s Kitchen project. As the first investor, GM will have first rights on lithium produced by the first stage of the Hell’s Kitchen project, including an option for a multi-year relationship.
Most lithium used in lithium-ion batteries is currently mined and processed outside of the US. CTR’s lithium resource at the Salton Sea in California is one of the largest known lithium brine resources in North America. The Salton Sea Known Geothermal Resource Area (KGRA) currently has an inferred lithium resource of 15 million metric tons. A fully developed Salton Sea KGRA would be capable of producing more than 600,000 metric tons of Lithium Carbonate Equivalent (LCE) per year.
CTR’s project resource has a total projected capacity of 1,100MW of baseload renewable power and 300,000 tonnes LCE per annum. The project has multiple product streams:renewable electricity, lithium, rare earths and other US-designated critical minerals in commercial quantities.
CTR’s closed-loop, direct lithium extraction process utilizes 100% renewable power and steam, significantly reducing the time to produce battery-grade lithium products and eliminating the need for overseas processing. CTR’s operations will have a minimal physical footprint and a near-zero carbon footprint.
The brine, after lithium extraction, is returned to the geothermal reservoir deep within the earth.
As part of the DLE process, CTR will deploy an ion-exchange process developed by Lilac Solutions, a leading DLE technology group that received $US20 million in funding led by Breakthrough Energy Ventures and MIT’s The Engine.
Lilac’s unique ion exchange beads and continuous brine processing system together enable a simple and robust process yielding concentrated high-purity lithium solutions from a wide variety of resources. The process can access brines with low concentrations of lithium while rejecting large amounts of impurities including divalent ions.
The first stage of the Hell’s Kitchen project is expected to begin yielding lithium in 2024.
CTR, through its project companies, specializes in lithium minerals and renewable energy production with projects in advanced development in the United States. The Australian public unlisted company was established in 2013 and has headquarters in Imperial Valley, California, and Brisbane, Australia.
In late 2020, The Lithium Valley Commission (LVC) was formed and is “charged with reviewing, investigating, and analyzing certain issues and potential incentives, regarding lithium extraction and use in California; and, to consult, if feasible, with the United States Environmental Protection Agency and the United States Department of Energy in performing these tasks.”