Wednesday, May 22, 2024

The dilemma: get more lithium for favored EV's - but at the cost of increased oil fracking


I had to laugh at this report.

Almost two centuries after California's gold rush, the United States is on the brink of a lithium rush. As demand for the material skyrockets, government geologists are rushing to figure out where the precious element is hiding.

In September 2023, scientists funded by a mining company reported finding what could be the largest deposit of lithium in an ancient US supervolcano. Now public researchers on the other side of the country have uncovered another untapped reservoir – one that could cover nearly half the nation's lithium demands.

It's hiding in wastewater from Pennsylvania's gas fracking industry.

Lithium is arguably the most important element in the nation's renewable energy transition – the material of choice for electric vehicle batteries. And yet, there is but one large-scale lithium mine in the US, meaning for the moment the country has to import what it needs.

. . .

Expanding America's lithium industry, however, is highly controversial, as mining can destroy natural environments, leach toxic chemicals, and intrude on sacred Indigenous land.

At the same time, however, lithium-ion batteries are considered a crucial technology in the world's transition to renewable energy, storing electricity generated by the wind and the Sun. Finding a source of lithium that doesn't cause more environmental destruction than necessary is key, but a clean solution is complicated.

Pennsylvania sits on a vein of sedimentary rock known as the Marcellus Shale, which is rich in natural gas. The geological foundation was deposited almost 400 million years ago by volcanic activity, and it contains lithium from volcanic ash.

Over vast stretches of time, deep groundwater has dissolved the lithium in these rocks, essentially "mining the subsurface", according to Justin Mackey, a researcher at the National Energy Technology Laboratory in Pennsylvania.

Mackey and his colleagues have now found that when wastewater is dredged up from the deep by fracking activities, it contains an astonishing amount of lithium.

There's more at the link.

Looks like the irresistible force is about to collide headlong with the immovable object, in environmental terms.  The US government and the tree-huggers want to eliminate as much fossil fuel as possible, and are therefore pushing electric vehicles as the solution.  On the other hand, if they want to do that, they have to have lithium for the EV's batteries:  and a major source for lithium now appears to be the fracking technologies they've been trying to ban for years, on the grounds that they're a major source of pollution and other problems.

Which do they want most?  Abundant batteries?  Or abundant gasoline as a derivative of abundant batteries?  Will they do without the latter, even though it means that obtaining the former will be more difficult and much more expensive?  Or will they fuel the vehicles of those of us who reject EV's as being insufficiently developed to be practical, in order to have more EV's to sell to those who want them?

Oh, the irony is delicious . . .



NobobyExpects said...

In the case of Pennsylvania, it looks like hybrids are a win-win.

Chris Nelson said...

"Which do they want most?"

95% of the current world's population dead.

The current envirommental and renewables movement is a watermelon movement not grounded in either science or economics.

Paul said...

Hybrids with plug in capability are the best. Trains are hybrid just without batteries. For moving large quantities of product overland nothing is better.

Not that the greens will ever admit it. They would rather rule over the ashes rather than do anything that might work.

SiGraybeard said...

I think I was around 13 when I read Heinlein's The Moon is a Harsh Mistress and his masterful synopsis, TANSTAAFL -There Ain't No Such Thing As A Free Lunch. Everything has costs that might be unknown to you but are being paid by someone. That means I read it just short of 60 years ago, and I've come to think of it as being as unbreakable as the laws of physics.

It should be made required reading because far too many people don't know the concept.

audeojude said...

"TANSTAAFL" Is as valid and immutable as "Murphy's Law", "Occam's Razor" and as pertaining to the male of the species "Hold My Beer" followed immediately by "Hey Ya'll Watch This!" Probably ever male ever has done the last at least once. Those that never learned to stop are probably no longer in the breeding pool. :)

lol.. did the last one once and it cured me of that at the age of 21. Came close to losing my hand but all's well that ends well and teaches you a lesson.

I was in the army and some other idiots in my unit were seeing who could get an air detonation out of flash bang grenades. These variants had an external 10 second fuse +- 3 seconds according to the manual. Equivalent to 1/4 stick TNT. maybe 2 inches in diameter and 4 or 5 inches long? Cardboard construction and all you got with them was a titanic bang and concussion and a white flash that at night would blind you. I was just hanging out on the tailgate of a humvee watching these idiots and laughing at them as they threw these things and they would land out about 30 feet away and go off on the ground. I guess I irked one of them so after a bit of mocking back and forth he goes " If you think you can do better put up or shut up." sigh.. fucking young and trying to prove something and knowing before I ever picked the thing up I was being stupid. So I picked it up struck the fuse and started counting. I got to six and threw it as hard as I could... Damn thing went off a quarter second later maybe 8 feet in front of my face. Nice blast of air back around me from it. I calmly turn around took two steps and sat back on the tail gate and said "Thats how you do it!" and then spent the next 10 minutes trying to hide the shakes from them. SGT shut it down after I threw, lol.. he knew he shouldn't have let anyone do it in the first place but me almost blowing myself up was a very loud and close wake up call that we were fucking up by the numbers and as senior NCO on the spot it was his responsibility. lol. Though not a one of the was mocking me after that though. :) I think the most common comment after was "fucking nuts" followed by "fucking balls"

The dichotomy of being ashamed of doing something so stupid in the moment but feeling prideful for doing it and succeeding with a "pun intended" BANG, has made me think about that type of behavior a lot over the years. That intersection of Machismo, Pride, peer pressure, stupidity that seems most pervasive in that mid teen to early 20's age range. How we have survived as a species I don't know :) lol

tweell said...

Sorry, but they will shut down fracking and demand we get our lithium batteries from China. It isn't even a question or a doubt how things will play out. These are not Greens, they are Watermelons. Green only on the outside, Red on the inside.

Peter, you are way too nice and thinking better of our rulers than they are. They want the middle class destroyed, they want to rule like nobility, over peasants, serfs and slaves. Fracking puts money in citizen's pockets, and so does domestic battery production.

Also, there are insufficient opportunities for graft. Where's the 10% for the big guy? There's plenty when going the other way.

I may be wrong here, they may be better than I think... but I really doubt it.

Anonymous said...

I'm always suspicious of claims like that; I doubt it is all recoverable.
Note that the Thacker Pass deposit has been known for years - in 2022 a mine was authorized to access it.
The university claims are hype to get themselves publicity.

Even more importantly, the floor has dropped out of the lithium market in the last 6 months with the drop in demand for it.
If you look at new proposed lithium mines and exploration projects in the last 6 months the list is non existent, a big change from last summer.
P.S. There are 2 projects in the country currently producing lithium. I wouldn't be surprised if no other projects come online in the near future.

Aesop said...

The EV market is saturated. Most people don't want them, and won't buy them. They like gasoline engines, for obvious reasons. At best, I'd want both options, and not in the same vehicle, which ends up being the worst of all possible worlds.

Switching from gasoline to electric would also crash the grid, and send the country into the 18th century, leading to the death of 90% of the country.

Which the EV advocates view as a feature, not a bug.

That should tell you everything you need to know about EVs and the people pushing for them. There's nothing wrong with them that can't be solved by ropes and trees, and heads on fenceposts afterwards.

Bear Claw Chris Lapp said...

What’s funnier is processing for lithium is multiple times dirtier than fracking

Chris said...

CMP is a company that made road salt from brine. Turns out the brine has a lot of lithium, so CMP cut their dividend to use the cash to invest in extracting the lithium. But they ran into a wall of government red tape and had to cancel the project.

They want lithium, but are apparently fussy about who gets to profit from it.