Vulcan Energy granted research permit in Italy for potential integrated geothermal energy/lithium production site
Vulcan Energy Resources Limited, the company aiming to become the world’s first integrated lithium and renewable energy producer with a net zero carbon footprint (earlier post), has been granted research permit in Italy for the Cesano area located 20 km NNW of Rome.
Vulcan’s current Zero Carbon Lithium Project aims to produce both renewable geothermal energy and lithium hydroxide for electric vehicle batteries from the same deep brine source in the Upper Rhine Valley, Germany.
The Cesano Permit awarded to Vulcan subsidiary Vulcan Energy Italy Pty Ltd extends over an area of 11.5 km2 and includes an area where a single geothermal well yielded two “hot brine” samples that contained high average lithium-in-brine historical (1976) grades of 350 and 380 mg/l Li.
Vulcan considers the area to have potential for sustainable lithium battery chemicals development in line with its Zero Carbon Lithium business, given the recorded high heat and lithium grades within the brine, and encouraging flow rates.
Vulcan’s in-house geological team in Germany will be collaborating with Italian geologists and local stakeholders to collate and assess historical data, verify the lithium content and assess the brine for potential lithium project development. If successful, the Cesano Project could provide a source of strategic, sustainable lithium in Italy for Europe’s battery and automotive market, and become a possible future addition to Vulcan’s Zero Carbon Lithium business.
Vulcan is aiming to increase the future supply of our sustainable lithium product in response to significant customer demand. By growing and diversifying our project development portfolio—an initiative we internally call “Project Rollo”—we ultimately aim to develop a global Zero Carbon Lithium business focused on Europe, and to become a significant producer of renewable energy and sustainable lithium for electric vehicles. Ultimately, we aim to leverage our extensive experience in lithium extraction from heated brines to have a materially decarbonizing effect on global electric vehicle supply chains and in doing so build stakeholder value.
After an extensive geological review, we have identified an area in Italy with positive flow rate, historical lithium grade and reservoir temperature indications that could be conducive to Vulcan’s unique method of using renewable heat to drive lithium processing, with net zero carbon footprint, for the European electric vehicle market. We will be working with local partners to ascertain the potential of the area in more detail, and ascertain next steps.—Vulcan’s Managing Director Dr. Francis Wedin
The Cesano Research Permit is located within the Cesano geothermal field, which was discovered in 1974. During 1975, a hot brine was discovered in a single geothermal well (Cesano 1) at a depth of approximately 1,390 m below surface by ENEL. Two hot brine samples yielded historical lithium contents of 350 and 380 mg/L Li in filtered and unfiltered brine. The historical results represent one of the highest global lithium grades recorded in a confined aquifer geothermal brine setting.
The Cesano geothermal field occurs within the Monti Sabatini volcanic region. Several deep wells (1,400 - 3,000m) were drilled in the geothermal field and the deep brine has yet to be tested, or publicly documented, for their lithium content. The Baccano caldera was formed over a carbonate structural high with Quaternary volcanic cover, on the inside of a large graben that developed from the Upper Miocene, and is characterized by a strong thermal anomaly. The Cesano 1 well was drilled at the southern border of the Baccano caldera, in correlation with a gravity high anomaly and a thermo-metamorphic halo in the Lower Jurassic carbonate rocks of the Umbria-Marche sedimentary basin.
The Cesano 1 well was reportedly tested at more than “250 tons/hr flow rate and about 50 tons/hr flashing steam, at a delivery pressure of 12-16 kg/cm2g”. At the date of brine sampling, the recorded “temperature at the base of the well, in conditions far from thermal equilibrium, was 210 °C, but the base temperature in the aquifer was thought to likely exceed 300 °C”.
The Vulcan team has noted some potential future challenges with development of lithium extraction at Cesano, including structural complexity and presence of high quantities of dissolved H2S. The structural complexity could be better understood with a 3D survey and the mitigation of H2S within a closed loop system is understood and a standard practice at other brine and geothermal plants worldwide.
While there has recently been a moratorium on geothermal renewable energy exploration (but not lithium exploration) in the Cesano region, a recent study concluded that “the exploitation of the identified geothermal resources in the ...Sabatini volcanic district (are) very suitable for both generation of electric power and direct uses that, due to the presence of many potential users (municipalities, industrial sites, agricultural, and touristic infrastructures), can play a significant role in the reduction of CO2 emissions.”
Initially, as a next step, Vulcan plans on conducting surface studies including CO2 soil gas analysis, to detect open/permeable fluid conduits, as well as a surface analogue study to define lithological heterogeneity.