Tuesday, June 16, 2015

"Quest to Mine Seawater for Lithium Advances" (TSLA)

If somebody doesn't figure something out Tesla will be buying 100% of the world's land-based production within five years.
Yeah, we've been following this stuff for a while.
From MIT's Technology Review:
Predicted lithium shortages are leading to novel technologies for recovering the element, now found mostly in salt lakes in South America. 

Researchers at Japan’s Atomic Energy Agency have come up with a new method of processing seawater to extract lithium—an element that plays a key role in advanced batteries for electric vehicles and one that, if current predictions for the EV market prove accurate, could be in short supply before the end of the decade.
Writing in the new issue of the journal Desalination, Tsuyoshi Hoshino, a scientist at the JAEA’s Rokkasho Fusion Institute, proposed a method for recovering lithium from seawater using dialysis. Still years from commercialization, the system is based on a dialysis cell with a membrane consisting of a superconductor material. Lithium is the only ion in the seawater that can pass through the membrane, from the negative-electrode side of the cell to the positive-electrode side.

The method “shows good energy efficiency and is easily scalable,” Hoshino writes.

Hoshino’s work joins a long tradition that includes both novel ways of recovering lithium and the wider dream of mining the sea for valuable minerals. People have “mined” salt from the sea for eons. The history of sea-floor mining stretches back to 1872, when the HMS Challenger, a British oceanographic vessel, discovered manganese on the ocean floor. By the mid-20th century people had begun to try to extract the vast mineral wealth dissolved in seawater—a difficult task given the low concentrations of the minerals being recovered. Today a thriving industry extracts magnesium from seawater, but the economical production of lithium from the sea has proved elusive. The element is found in extremely low concentrations in the ocean and already has an established supply chain, mostly from salt lakes in South America.

If Hoshino’s method proves efficient and economical, it could transform a market that has seen lots of investment and supposed innovation in recent years but has remained stubbornly resistant to new technologies and new sources of supply. Most lithium is still recovered today in the way it has been for half a century: by evaporating brine collected from salt lakes in enclosed valleys in parts of Chile, Argentina, and Bolivia.

Predictions of lithium supply crunches have appeared with increasing frequency in recent years. Many analysts, though not all, believe that rising demand from makers of batteries for electric vehicles—particularly Tesla, whose forthcoming Gigafactory is expected to nearly double world lithium demand—is sure to strain supplies from traditional sources.

“I think we will see shortages,” says Simon Moores, head of the minerals and mining consultancy Benchmark Intelligence. “New supply is needed now, and it will be in the future, even if a fraction of the planned expansions in battery production happens.”

Benchmark’s tracking of lithium prices shows a steady rise over the last few years, and Moores doesn’t foresee prices falling anytime soon. That is fueling R&D at the most basic level, as with Hoshino’s work, and it’s driving new investment in salt lakes that could produce lithium—particularly in Nevada, where Tesla is building the Gigafactory. (See “Tesla’s Massive Nevada Factory Will Need Massive Results to Pay Off.”)...MORE
Some related posts:

Gates, Pritzkers vs. Musk: "The $5 Billion Race to Build a Better Battery" (TSLA)
Besides Using All the Lithium In the World, "Will Tesla’s $5 Billion Gigafactory Make a Battery No-One Else Wants?" (TSLA)
Can't Get Enough o' That Lithium. "Peak Lithium: Will Supply Fears Drive Alternative Batteries?"
Short Seller Muddy Waters Goes Long a Battery and Electric Vehicle Play
"Boston-Power Aims to Rival Tesla With Gigawatt Battery Factories" (TSLA)
Daimler Likes Tesla's Drivetrain But Wants Their Own Battery Company (TSLA)
Advice to Elon Musk: "Use a Little Foreplay" (TSLA; SCTY)
Something For Tesla to Watch: Major Lithium Miners Joint Venture Exceptional Deposit (TSLA)
Tesla Is Buying Batteries for How Many Cars? (TSLA)
Lithium Boom Spurs Production From California Brine
Lithium-Ion Batteries and Bolivian Politics
Electric Vehicles-Lithium Supplies and Crucifixion in Bolivia
Lithium: In Bolivia, Untapped Bounty Meets Nationalism
France's Bollore opens talks over Bolivia's lithium (BOLL: Paris)
Lithium for 4.8 Billion Electric Cars Lets Bolivia Upset Market (SQM; BOLL: Paris)
Japanese industry set for a lithium rush (SQM)
 "With Aid to Bolivia, Japan Locks in Lithium" ooops "Bolivia slams Japan mining firm for 'plundering' resources" (PKX)
Mining lithium from geothermal 'lemonade'. And: Batteries That Don't Blow Up
A Look at the Global X Lithium ETF (LIT)
Fund Holdings of Global X Lithium ETF (LIT)
The rush for lithium is just beginning
The lithium boom is coming: The new bubble? (SQM)

And dozens more, use the "search blog" box if interested.