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Pennsylvania Could Supply 40% of U.S. Lithium Demand

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A research team at the University of Pittsburgh has suggested the possibility of large-scale lithium extraction in Pennsylvania. The team anticipates this could aid in lithium procurement within the U.S.

Justin Mackey, research scientist at the National Energy Technology Laboratory and PhD student at Pitt,  confirmed on the 29th that a specific lithium concentration has been detected on the surface in Pennsylvania. He added it could “supply somewhere between 30 and 40 percent of the current U.S. national demand.”

Mackey explained that this discovery indicates that up to 40% of the lithium used in the U.S. could come from the wastewater of Marcellus shale gas wells in Pennsylvania.

He conducted this research for several years alongside his mentor, Daniel Bain, an associate professor of Geology and Environment at Pitt. The two analyzed Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection compliance data and published their findings in Scientific Reports.

In particular, Mackey emphasized that lithium is present in the wastewater and waste material from Marcellus shale gas wells. He argued that if lithium could be extracted from this waste, it could significantly reduce the associated treatment costs. Mackey noted that they have confirmed the presence of lithium concentrations in the wastewater from Marcellus shale gas wells, which are as high as those found in salt mining facilities in Arkansas or Chile. He emphasized the appeal of using new technology to extract lithium from wastewater. “While this is a controversial subject, it must be considered. We hope for more active discussions on creative improvements and wastewater reuse,” he added.

Mackey is already investigating the presence of lithium in other geological layers and is considering environmental assessments for direct lithium extraction processes as he expands his analysis to other production areas. The research team, including Mackey, anticipates this discovery will stimulate domestic lithium production in the U.S. The U.S. Geological Survey currently designates lithium as an essential mineral, and the U.S. government plans to lay the groundwork for all lithium production domestically by 2030.

theguru
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