Game-Changing Partnership: Occidental Petroleum and BHE Renewables to Transform Lithium Extraction

"Occidental Petroleum and BHE Renewables Partner to Revolutionize Lithium Production in California Geothermal Facility"

On June 4, Occidental Petroleum and BHE Renewables made headlines with their joint venture announcement to extract high-purity lithium from Berkshire’s geothermal facility in California. This partnership aims to revolutionize commercial lithium production by implementing TerraLithium’s Direct Lithium Extraction (DLE) technology. The move marks a significant step forward in the realm of sustainable energy solutions.

The collaboration between Occidental and BHE Renewables is set to harness the strengths of both companies. Occidental brings its expertise in chemical engineering and large-scale operations to the table, while BHE Renewables contributes its knowledge of renewable energy and environmental sustainability. Alicia Knapp, President and CEO of BHE Renewables, emphasized the significance of this joint venture with TerraLithium, highlighting its commitment to environmentally safe and commercially viable lithium production that benefits the Imperial Valley community. The vision is to position Imperial Valley as a global leader in lithium production.

Following the successful demonstration of the technology, BHE Renewables will take charge of constructing, owning, and operating commercial lithium production facilities in California’s Imperial Valley. Additionally, the joint venture plans to license the technology and establish commercial lithium production facilities beyond the Imperial Valley, expanding its reach and impact on the industry.

The demand for lithium, primarily driven by the electric vehicle (EV) and consumer electronics markets, is projected to skyrocket from $22.2 billion to $89.9 billion by 2030. Conventional lithium production methods, such as evaporation ponds, come with significant environmental concerns. With the acquisition of TerraLithium in 2022, Occidental has positioned itself as a game-changer in the industry. TerraLithium, a wholly owned subsidiary formed through a partnership with All-American Lithium in 2019, boasts patented technologies capable of extracting trace lithium from waste brines efficiently, ensuring ultra-high-purity lithium while minimizing environmental impacts.

By acquiring the remaining interests in TerraLithium, Occidental leverages its expertise in chemical plant operations and brine management to promote sustainable lithium production and secure strategic domestic lithium sources. TerraLithium’s demonstration plant in Brawley, California, near the Salton Sea, is on track to commence operations in 2024. Jeff Alvarez, President and General Manager of TerraLithium, expressed optimism about the merger, highlighting the importance of creating a secure and reliable domestic supply of high-purity lithium products to meet the growing global demand.

TerraLithium’s patented Direct Lithium Extraction (DLE) technologies are designed to transform any lithium-containing brine into a superior and responsibly sourced lithium supply. Leveraging Occidental’s expertise in subsurface and chemical engineering, coupled with a track record in technology scale-up and global commercialization, the lithium extraction process promises higher efficiency and lower environmental impact compared to traditional methods. This technology aligns with the commitments of both Occidental and BHE Renewables to environmental stewardship and a low-carbon future.

Oxy, as the largest oil and gas producer in the U.S., has developed a Net-Zero Strategy aligning with the Paris Agreement to combat climate change. Through its subsidiary, Oxy Low Carbon Ventures, the company spearheads innovative technologies and strategies to drive economic growth while reducing emissions. Oxy is committed to global carbon management and has attracted new investments into low-carbon projects, including lithium production, to facilitate the transition to a lower-carbon future.

In 2021, Warren Buffett’s Berkshire Hathaway Inc. initiated a groundbreaking plan to extract lithium from geothermal brines beneath California’s Salton Sea, a process previously unexplored. In 2022, a demonstration project was launched with this innovative technology, leading to the strategic joint venture with Occidental. BHE Petroleum indicates that if the demo projects succeed, construction of the first commercial plant could commence as early as 2024, offering an environmentally responsible domestic source of lithium with 100% renewable energy usage.

The surge in demand for lithium, driven by the rise of EVs and renewable energy storage solutions, sets the stage for the joint venture to capture a significant share of the expanding market. TerraLithium’s efficient and eco-friendly extraction process positions it as a competitive player in the industry. Occidental and BHE Renewables are looking to scale up TerraLithium’s deployment and explore opportunities for implementing the technology at various sites to enhance the lithium supply chain for future energy needs.

As global oil giants enter the electrification sector in response to increased EV adoption and reduced fossil fuel dependency, companies like Exxon Mobil, BP, and Shell are making strategic investments in lithium production and related technologies. The future of lithium production is evolving rapidly, with Occidental and BHE Renewables at the forefront of sustainable and innovative solutions in the industry.

Matt Lyons

Matt Lyons

Matt Lyons is the founder of Forestry & Carbon. Matt has over 25 years as a forestry consultant and is invoilved in numerous carbon credit offset projects.

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