Pennsylvania’s Lithium Find Could Meet 40% Of US Demand Amid Soaring Needs

A groundbreaking discovery by researchers from the University of Pennsylvania has revealed a substantial lithium deposit in Pennsylvania capable of supplying up to 40% of the United States’ lithium needs. This discovery, found in wastewater from Marcellus Shale gas wells, could significantly impact the U.S. lithium supply chain, currently dominated by China and Chile.

According to Fastmarkets, the demand for lithium in the U.S. is anticipated to increase by nearly 500% by 2030. Lithium is a crucial component in batteries for a range of devices, including smartphones, laptops, and electric vehicles. The newfound domestic source could alleviate the heavy reliance on foreign lithium supplies.

Justin Mackey, a research scientist at the UPitt National Energy Technology Laboratory, and his mentor, associate professor Daniel Bain, have been investigating this lithium source for years. Their findings, published in Scientific Reports, highlight the potential of the Marcellus Shale wastewater to meet a significant portion of U.S. lithium demand. Mackey stated, “We have found that there was sufficient lithium in the waters to supply somewhere between 30 and 40 percent of the current U.S. national demand.”

The Marcellus Formation, an extensive natural gas field in central Appalachia, dates back 252 to 541 million years and requires substantial water for fracking. The lithium is present in the wastewater produced from this process, presenting a unique opportunity for resource extraction.

Mackey and his team are focused on ensuring that this domestic lithium source contributes to decarbonizing the American economy in a safe and environmentally friendly manner. He noted, “This is lithium concentrations that already exist at the surface in some capacity in Pennsylvania.”

However, the researchers also pointed out that their conclusions are based on the assumption of 100% lithium recovery and cost-effective extraction processes compared to other potential uses for the water. As the demand for lithium is expected to reach 412,000 tonnes of lithium carbonate equivalent by 2030, a 487% increase, the Pennsylvania find could be pivotal.

The discovery holds significant promise for enhancing U.S. energy security and supporting the country’s transition to clean energy technologies. If extraction processes prove efficient and environmentally sustainable, this lithium deposit could become a key asset in meeting the growing demands of modern technology and renewable energy sectors.

This development underscores the importance of continued research and innovation in resource extraction, highlighting the potential for domestic resources to play a vital role in the U.S. energy landscape. The implications of this discovery extend beyond just meeting demand, potentially transforming the U.S. into a more self-reliant and sustainable energy producer.