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Bill Gates' Energy Venture, Other Funders Pour $145M Into Little-Known Startup To Harvest Lithium From America's Biggest Saltwater Lake

Author: Benzinga Neuro | February 12, 2024 08:47am

A California-based startup, Lilac Solutions, is gearing up to commence a project that will extract lithium from the Great Salt Lake in Utah. Backed by Bill Gates, Mitsubishi, and others, the initiative is set to begin this summer and aims to address the growing demand for lithium, a crucial component in electric vehicle batteries.

What Happened: Lilac Solutions plans to employ a unique method that involves drawing water from the Great Salt Lake to extract lithium, a mineral in high demand due to the electric vehicle industry’s rapid expansion, reported The Wall Street Journal on Monday. The company will then return the water to the lake, mitigating concerns about environmental damage caused by mineral extraction.

The company has secured $145 million in funding from investors such as Gates’s Breakthrough Energy Ventures and Japanese industrial conglomerate Mitsubishi. It is also in talks with major battery manufacturers and automakers seeking a domestic supply of battery-grade lithium.

At its peak, the project will extract 80,000 gallons of water per minute, yielding up to 20,000 tons of battery-grade lithium annually. This endeavor is one of many across the U.S. striving to establish a domestic lithium and battery mineral supply, in line with the nation’s shift to cleaner energy.

Despite the vast lithium resources in the U.S., the extraction process remains a challenge due to its complex chemistry. Lilac’s CEO, Dave Snydacker, asserts that their method, which uses reusable ceramic “beads” to extract lithium from brine, is more environmentally friendly than traditional techniques.

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Why It Matters: The demand for lithium has been on the rise, driven by the electric vehicle boom. In 2023, the Department of Energy discovered what is believed to be the world’s largest supply of lithium beneath California’s Salton Sea, estimated to be worth up to $540 billion and capable of meeting America’s demand for decades to come.

Despite a slump in battery metals, companies like American Lithium have continued to make significant strides in lithium production, with the company’s Falchani lithium project in Peru seeing a threefold increase in its estimated value.

Lilac Solutions’ innovative approach to lithium extraction not only addresses environmental concerns but also contributes to the U.S.’s efforts to establish a robust domestic supply chain for battery minerals, reducing its reliance on China, the global leader in battery mineral production.

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Image via Shutterstock

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