The presence of lithium, in "promising quantity and quality" in the Alsatian subsoil, had given wings in 2019 to geothermal sites in Alsace.
But above all, it allowed us to dream of components that are essential for Li-ion batteries in cars or mobile phones.
With why not, one day, made in France.
The Fonroche group, which operates a geothermal site on the Vendenheim-Reichstett site north of Strasbourg, in particular, reassured us about these good prospects.
After noting that the water extracted from its drilling wells had a strong presence, the company even envisaged an annual production of nearly 1,500 tonnes of clean lithium (for the Vendenheim site alone), and even providing 30 to 40% of the l overall French industrial demand ...
Yes, but that was before a series of earthquakes that shook the Eurometropolis of Strasbourg, (nothing to do with the presence of lithium in the extracted water) which radically changed the situation and caused the shutdown to end. 2020 from the Vendenheim site, thus delivering an “Alsatian lithium” to the Greek calendar.
A first success
Today, hope is reborn. The announcement of Eramet, a global mining and metallurgical group and Électricité de Strasbourg (ÉS), which operates the site of the Rittershoffen geothermal power plant (North Alsace), operated by ÉS for five years, allows the project to get back on track. The group claims to have successfully carried out the first pilot for the extraction of lithium from geothermal brine in Alsace. The successful test took place at the beginning of the year and since then everything has accelerated. Inspired by a lithium extraction process that it uses at one of its sites in Argentina, it has not only filed important patents for this new industry but above all succeeded in adapting it.The aim is to operate with hot brines and under the pressure conditions used to generate heat and electricity from the Rhine ditch.
Nothing is won yet.
The program should make it possible by the end of the year to determine the economic potential of the recovery of geothermal lithium.
And it will take several more years, perhaps until 2026, before we have commercial production.
And nothing guarantees either that the exploitation will necessarily be carried out in Alsace.
But it is at this price that the securing of the independence of the raw materials essential to Europe's energy transition is played out.
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