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New geothermal and lithium brine licence bolsters Vulcan

Vulcan Energy Resources’ lithium extraction plant in Germany’s Rhine Valley. Credit: File

Vulcan Energy Resources’ Zero Carbon Lithium project in Germany’s Upper Rhine Valley brine field has been boosted through the grant of a new “Luftbrücke” geothermal and lithium brine exploration licence.

Importantly, the licence covers the industrial and heavily-populated region of Frankfurt am Main – an area with a potentially long line of industrial customers, including the Höchst Chemical Park and Frankfurt Airport.

Vulcan says it plans to use geothermal renewable energy to decarbonise large industrial areas of the central German city of Frankfurt, a major financial hub, by supplying geothermally-derived heat with the added bonus of potential lithium extraction from the hot water.

The Zero Carbon Lithium project is located strategically in the middle of the European car and battery industry and sits on a 300km “graben” system that contains a consistent sedimentary-hosted geothermal lithium reservoir – meaning the lithium-bearing water, or “brine”, is hot, typically between 70–90°C .

The new Luftbrücke license includes major industrial areas such as the Höchst Chemical Park and Frankfurt Airport, which are heavy energy consumers requiring enormous quantities of renewable energy and heating solutions. The Höchst Chemical Park is one of the biggest pharmaceutical and chemical parks in Europe and Frankfurt airport is the busiest passenger terminal in Germany.

So the licence approval appears to be a major scoop for Vulcan as Frankfurt has extraordinary heat demand in the range of 6 terawatt hours to 12 TWh per annum and currently uses 80 per cent fossil energy sources, mainly gas and coal.

Additionally, the license is close to Vulcan’s central lithium plant (CLP) and offers further opportunities as it looks to gradually expand its lithium chemicals production. Therefore, the company believes the development of geothermal renewable energy in the license area is a significant commercial and decarbonising opportunity for its own downstream operations as well as for the region.

The first jointly-funded research well has been completed with the full support of the City of Frankfurt and testing is underway for heat and lithium extraction. Vulcan is also assessing whether the high lithium concentrations in the nearby Buntsandstein brine reservoir extend into the Rotliegend brine reservoir to the north under Luftbrücke.

This new licence signifies a major future phase opportunity for Vulcan as a dual lithium and geothermal energy producer. We have a strong presence already in the region as we progress towards commissioning of our Central Lithium Electrolysis Optimisation Plant located in Höchst Chemical Park, which will also be the location of our Central Lithium Plant for our Phase One commercial operations. We look forward to growing our relationship with the Frankfurt region and its stakeholders to support their energy transition to meet their carbon neutral goals by 2035. Vulcan Energy Resources managing director and chief executive officer Cris Moreno

The company says the new licence and recent collaboration with the City of Frankfurt is a strong signal to renewable energy developers that Germany is unlocking demand for renewable heating to de-risk its reliance on foreign fossil gas.

Luftbrücke covers a whopping 207 square kilometres at the northernmost extent of Vulcan’s Zero Carbon Lithium project area in the Upper Rhine Valley brine field that stretches across Germany and France. The company’s combined geothermal energy and lithium resource is the biggest in the entire European area.

By adapting existing technologies to efficiently extract lithium from geothermal brine, Vulcan aims to deliver a local source of sustainable lithium for Europe and provide renewable electricity and heat to local communities.

Strategically placed in the heart of the European electric vehicle market to decarbonise the supply chain, the company is rapidly advancing its Zero Carbon Lithium project and is building the potential to quickly expand to meet the unprecedented demand in the European markets.

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