ARKANSAS, Nov 30 (Future Headlines)- The U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) has unveiled a groundbreaking study conducted by the Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory, shedding light on the enormous potential of domestic lithium resources within the geothermal brine of California’s Salton Sea region. The study, accessible via the DOE’s publication, presents a comprehensive analysis of the lithium reservoir’s capacity and its pivotal role in supporting the Biden-Harris Administration’s ambitious goals of achieving 50% electric vehicle (EV) adoption by 2030 and establishing a net-zero emissions economy by 2050. The findings underscore a once-in-a-generation opportunity to foster a robust domestic lithium industry, fortifying clean energy, job creation, and national energy security.

The Salton Sea region possesses the capacity to yield an astounding 3400 kilotons of lithium, leveraging anticipated technological advancements. This translates to supporting over 375 million EV batteries, surpassing the current number of vehicles on U.S. roads.


The study aligns with the Biden-Harris Administration’s ambitious EV adoption targets and net-zero emissions aspirations. The Salton Sea emerges as a strategic cornerstone in achieving these goals, exemplifying the critical intersection of renewable energy and resource abundance.

The Salton Sea Known Geothermal Resource Area (KGRA) exhibits potential lithium resources in deep subsurface geothermal reservoirs. With approximately 400 MW of installed geothermal power capacity, the region’s lithium potential is estimated at up to 2950 MW.

The study explores the geological history, suggesting diverse sources for lithium, including water and sediments from the Colorado River, rocks from surrounding mountain ranges and lithium-bearing volcanic rocks. Evaporative concentration and leaching over time contributed to increased lithium concentrations in the subsurface brines.

The analysis includes the production of geothermal brine from the Salton Sea’s existing power plant since 2004, averaging over 120 million metric tons annually. Lithium concentration of approximately 198 ppm yields an estimated 127,000 metric tons per year of lithium carbonate equivalent (LCE).

The well-characterized portion of the Salton Sea Geothermal Reservoir holds an estimated 4.1 million metric tons of LCE, potentially expanding to 18 million metric tons with appropriate assumptions.

The study develops two models simulating a 30-year lithium production, highlighting different lithium recovery mechanisms. One model underscores the upward flux of lithium-rich brine from below the producing reservoir as the primary replenishment mechanism.

Lithium production’s impact on water availability is projected to be modest, utilizing approximately 3% of the region’s historically available water supply. The study assures a minimal environmental impact, affirming chemical use consistency in industrial settings without persistent organic pollutants or acutely toxic chemicals. Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory spearheads the study in collaboration with other institutions, guided by the Geothermal Technologies Office (GTO) and funded with $1.2 million.

The DOE’s portfolio includes initiatives like the American-Made Challenges Geothermal Lithium Extraction Prize, recently won by Xerion, showcasing ongoing efforts to advance lithium extraction technologies.

The broader DOE portfolio encompasses an $11 million research program, funding 10 projects to advance innovative technologies for extracting and converting battery-grade lithium from geothermal brine sources in the U.S.

Reporting by Kevin Wood; Editing by Sarah White