The Cesano geothermal area near Rome has potential for sustainable lithium battery chemicals development, Vulcan Energy said after obtaining a research permit. Leaning on its project in the Rhine Valley, the company has been striking supply deals with carmakers.
Vulcan Energy Resources, listed on the Australian Securities Exchange, is aiming to become the world’s first integrated lithium and geothermal energy producer with a net zero carbon footprint. Over the past years, while mining giants were working on lithium projects and faced public opposition in Serbia, Portugal and in the Americas, the company was developing the technology to extract the strategic alkali metal from geothermal waters.
The firm based in Perth and Germany’s Karlsruhe, which has high hopes in its endeavor in the Upper Rhine Valley, has just been granted a research permit for the Cesano area 20 kilometers from Rome.
The latest supply deal was signed with LG Energy Solutions from South Korea
Vulcan Energy has recently signed agreements with Volkswagen, Stellantis, Renault and Umicore to supply battery-grade lithium chemicals. The latest deal is for 41,000 to 50,000 metric tons to be delivered over five years to LG Energy Solutions from South Korea, starting in 2025.
The Australian-German company said it is targeting the start of production in 2024.
The Cesano permit is for an area of 11.5 square kilometers. A single geothermal well there yielded two hot brine samples in 1976 that contained high average grades of 350 and 380 milligrams of lithium per liter and “encouraging flow rates,” Vulcan said.
High quantities of dissolved hydrogen sulfide may pose a challenge for the extraction of lithium in Vulcan’s first project in Italy
A study from 1990 found “the results are very encouraging” for lithium recovery from the fluids in the area without any prior treatment. Vulcan acknowledged that potential challenges include structural complexity and the presence of high quantities of dissolved hydrogen sulfide.
The company claims it is looking to have a materially decarbonizing effect on global electric vehicle supply chains.