It is a treasure that hides under the feet of Alsatians. Essential for the manufacture of smartphones batteries but especially electric cars, lithium could soon be extracted from the underground waters of the French region while it is currently mainly from Australia, China and South America .
Electricité de Strasbourg (ES), a subsidiary of EDF, and Fonroche Géothermie have confirmed the presence of this metal at a significant level at several sites in Alsace, where they are exploring the subsoil for the construction of geothermal power plants. deep.
So much so that the subsidiary of EDF intends to establish in 2021 a pilot plant on one of these sites, in order to confirm in real configuration the "relevance" of the lithium chloride currently detected in the laboratory, has said Bernard Kempf, director of development.
"Quantity and quality"
As part of the Fonroche Géothermie project in Vendenheim, north of Strasbourg (Bas-Rhin), "the analyzes in the water extracted from the boreholes confirm the presence of lithium in quality and quantity very promising to consider the annual production of some 1,500 tons of lithium, "said the company in a statement. This volume represents 10% of the estimated annual supply requirements for France in the coming years.
"On the basis of three power stations programmed in Alsace, Fonroche Géothermie could therefore supply 30% to 40% of all French industrial lithium demand from 2023 ", concludes the press release.
Electricité de Strasbourg has also identified a potential of 1,500 tonnes per year on its geothermal power plant sites several thousand meters deep in Alsace, said its management.
A "very low environmental impact"
These tests are conducted by the mining group Eramet as part of a research consortium that brings together ES, the chemist BASF and the car manufacturer PSA among others. Production on an "industrial" scale could then be "hoped for in 2025," added Bernard Kempf, who at this stage believes "we must remain cautious".
According to ES and Fonroche, the extraction technique in Alsace would have a "very low environmental impact" to produce a "clean lithium".