The irony of lithium

| June 13, 2024 | 31 Comments

 

Well, we know that one of the great needs of the grand and glorious EV revolution is lithium. Can’t have an electric car without either a bloody long extension cord or a pretty sizable battery, right? Old-style lead-acid batteries don’t hold enough of a charge for their weight – so the current front running technology is lithium ion batteries. Grand things they are…but they need, whatddya call it ? Oh, yeah…lithium.

Turns out we import over 50% of our lithium,  USGS

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.

Believe we heard a while back  most of the imports would come from China, which is also trying to get their EV industry off the ground – so you know they will sooner or later decide they need all they have with none for us. (We won’t necessarily talk bout how their auto industry is going to be killing ours when they flood us with small INEXPENSIVE EVs. Have you seen the prices and sizes of American made ones?)

But one of the gating factors, like above – is availability of lithium. Turns out it may be coming from a very ironic source.

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.

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

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.

So a byproduct of fracking can be – lithium.
Fracking works by drilling an L-shape into the earth so that water can be pumped downward. This forces deeper substances, including gas, out into the open.
Such practices could squander precious lithium. As this new study shows, in properly measuring lithium reserves in fracking wastewater, there could be another way to put the waste to good use.

Their results suggest that the Marcellus Shale “has the capacity to provide significant lithium yields for the foreseeable future” – as long as fracking continues, that is.

So the key to coming up with a good portion of our battery needs – is drilling for hydrocarbons. Gonna make Greta Thunberg’s pasty carrot head explode…
“Ohh, drilling bad. Batteries good. Ohh, decisions, decisions….”  Definitely King Lear-level irony.

Category: America, EVs, Global Warming

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Ret_25X

of course resource mining is controversial in the USA. Demokkkrats want everything and willing do nothing for it. Of course, they are all NIMBYs. They don’t mind slave labor and wholesale ecological destruction for brown skinned people, but not in their white bread neighborhoods or they’ll burn POC neighborhoods down.

2banana

“Rare Earth” elements, such as Lithium, are not rare and are found all over the world.

They are, however. extremely toxic to process.

Anonymous

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JustALurkinAround

Uranium mining, milling, and conversion produces leach ponds/fields as well. I can’t speak to the truthfulness of the toxicity claims of the lithium ponds, but I do know I wouldn’t swim in them.

W2

I had a crazy cousin (like bat shit mental hospital crazy) that used to take lithium pills to keep the voices at bay. He got bat shit crazier when he didn’t take his meds. Can’t be all bad, right?

JustALurkinAround

Good point, 2Banana.

Once an element is designated a rare earth, it does not come off the list even if observed tonnage mined would reasonably conclude its removal.

It’s more of an identifier of a group of metals. The designation of a rare earth does not always mean it is really “rare”.

I speak from experience as I mine unobtanium.

26Limabeans

Rare earth 1973:
https://youtu.be/3rsMB5cxPc8

JustALurkinAround

Ugh, I should have known better to click on your link, 26.

I said to myself, “Self, you know it’ll be a shitty Rare Earth track….”

Self was right.

You got’ted me.

Need to listen to some Porcupine Tree, Rush, or Sabaton to clean out the ol’ earz.

W2

Sell that unobtanium to the USN. The navy runs on that stuff.

Jimbojszz

the ocean is full of lithium. Desalination of salt water produces lithium as a bi-product. I don’t think there is a shortage at all. Just needs to be harvested and that cost money. I’m sure us taxpayers will be on the hook for that someday.

President Elect Toxic Deplorable Racist SAH Neande

Same as the open pit mine here in Utah. They mine for the copper, (loss), and the gold is a byproduct (profit!).

5JC

Currently there is a 100% tariff on EV imports from China. Other than vehicles that are made by American manufacturers in China they don’t produce a single vehicle that will pass NHSTA standards. American vehicles manufactured in China are for the Chinese and other Asian markets.

The McDermott caldera in Nevada contains at least 220 million tons of lithium and It could be as much as 440 million tons. Current US demand is half a million tons, so at current demand rates that would be a 400-800 year supply. Even if demand increases by 10 times the current rate we’re looking at 40-80 years, this doesn’t consider battery recycling or even touching the fracking wells. Nor does it consider future discoveries, which was long a failing of Peak Oil theories.

All that said I say we just got lucky with the McDermott caldera. Joe Biden’s foreign policy in Africa has been a complete failure. The Chinese have out worked and outplayed us at every opportunity. His foreign policy is actually worse than W, Carter and Johnson, and that is saying a lot. We would have to go all the way back to Woodrow Wilson to see somebody that was that awful. While Wilson was probably the worst, FJB has potential.

KoB

DaHell you doing introducing facts into this conversation? How DARE you! If we start using the natural resources in this country to make things how are the children in the other countries gonna make a living? Remember…it is always about the children.

5JC

It’s true, The child laborers working the lithium mines in Africa without safety gear or even humane working conditions, do have the satisfaction of a paycheck. Still, they may be happier not doing that and living to the ripe old age of 50.

Anonymous

Nothing says “green” like destroying the environment with litihium mining and becoming dependent on China for crappy little cars that explode (when they’re massively investing un hydrogen fueled vehicles too):
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Last edited 29 days ago by Anonymous
Jimbo

Production of lithium also produces hydrogen and chlorine, Plenty to fuel for hydro vehicles too, Chlorine, lots of bleach blondes. And it produces fresh water from sea water. Can be produced with $5 of electricity per kilogram. Of course the other processing equipment and labor cost is not figured in. Open evaporator ponds would not be needed, and friendlier to the environment. At least that is what the company Electrek says. Could be a good investment down the road. We could cut China out of the picture and they are heavily invested in the evaporator process. So they can continue to pollute their own land and people.

26Limabeans

The entire Ev / global warming scam is coming apart.
It’s a political ruse. Even the true believers know it but still can’t
come to grips with the physics and the math.
Be fun to watch an ev police car chase.
An ev wheeler with a snow plow and sander dump body.
Or a tri axle pulp truck with boom loader.
Has Deere, Case or Komatsu come up with an ev excavator?

Drill baby drill…..

Jimbojszz

Oil is here to stay. When a tank can be run from batteries, things might change. I like the sound of a V-8 with headers.

26Limabeans

Or a loaded four bunk logging truck’s engine brake as it
comes to a stop at 4am.

5JC

I don’t think petroleum driven vehicles are going anywhere for the next 30 years. They will likely reduce in number, and then start to fade away. The technology isn’t there right now to replace those vehicles for every application. Even then, there will always be some. Just like there are some houses with oil, wood and coal furnaces today.

26Limabeans

My neighbors new house built last year is oil fired
hot water baseboard heat.
He works at the local windfarm.

UpNorth

It was said today that the plan to have contractors build EV charging stations has charged forward in the last 2-3 years. So far, 7, that’s Seven, have been built. And it was said that there are so many DEI requirements as to electricians, electrical contractors and such, that several states (mostly Red states) will never see a government built charging station.

Anonymous

Those “green” progressives:

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Last edited 27 days ago by Anonymous
jeff LPH 3 63-66

china doesn’t have to nuke us, their batteries are destroying us a little at a time as they ignite and start fires indoors and outdoors.

26Limabeans

Couple of times a month I have to drive to an appointment on
interstate 95 about 250 miles round trip. Used to see the
occassional blackened area in the breakdown lane from a car fire.
More and more I’m seeing much larger blackened areas along
with the shoulder and nearby woods. Obvious ev fires.

5JC

Yeah obviously.

I mean if you had said hybrid, that would be like a maybe. But since there were 52 EV fires in the United States last year The odds of you seeing one is about the same as seeing a Porsche 959 on the road, since the odds are about the same.

The gasoline vehicle is 60 times more likely to be in a fire and there are a lot more of them. Also the typical gas vehicle is a lot larger than It used to be and has a bigger gas tank (ref 80s and up). Hunh. I can’t speak to what you saw but there might be something going on there.

Now a hybrid on the other hand is more than twice as likely to be in a fire then a gasoline vehicle. This is something that I think deserves a lot more study. Personally I believe it’s because the quality of construction of EV’s is better than that of economy hybrids, which tend to lead the way in fires, especially the older ones.

Av8or33

Don’t know where you got those numbers but I know of 3 local EV fires in the last 6 months not including a bus.

jeff LPH 3 63-66

NYC FDNY going crazy with EV scooter fires. Last year they had around 100 lith battery fires which were responsible for some deaths. A bike store owner was arrested just awhile ago for using 3rd party Liths and making his own battery packs. FDNY Hazmat shows up and while removing the batteries, a fire started in one of the batteries. I get the calls texted to me from IPN (Incident Paging Network) I also subscribe to LFB across the pond and they have Lith Battery fires which so far involved one death.

RCAF-CHAIRBORNE

The best use of Lithium is to medicate Looney Leftys