Are we running out of lithium? 

A few things to remember:- 

NEW CHEMISTRY: The first thing to note is that battery chemistries seem to be moving away from rare earths and into more abundant metals like LFP – Lithium Iron Phosphate batteries. These are cheaper, and have less fire risk and are less toxic. No cobalt and child labour concerns from the DRC. They’re not quite as energy dense for cars – but should do at least 300 miles / 480 km soon.

RECYCLING: once we exhaust a lithium mine – we haven’t run out of that lithium. We still have all the lithium ever mined. It just needs to be recycled. And we are getting really good at that!

PUMPED FILTRATION: Today’s lithium mining dumps lithium slurry to sit in evaporation ponds for 18 months. This is about to change. There are pump and filter systems coming that should radically speed up the production of lithium and halve the cost.  

LAWS: All countries need greenie activists working to improve mining regulations and keep corporations accountable. When the mining ends, landscapes should be rehabilitated and ecosystems replanted. While talking about mining, the material mined will actually be less than in the fossil fuel era. We move and then BURN 35 BILLION tons of fossil fuels a year. Just the oil is 4 cubic kilometres of oil – and if we stacked that into a 1km by 1km cube 4 km high – it would look like this over Sydney. (From ABC.)

About 40% of global international shipping is just moving fossil fuels around to be burned. (When we go green, that’s 40% of shipping gone!) So while metal mining for renewables WILL be vast – it’s nothing like what we are already doing! EG: The lithium in one EV battery pack that lasts 16 years (or longer!) is nothing like the volume of the oil a regular car would burn.

GRID STORAGE: first overbuild your renewables for winter. If winter months halve your output, double your renewables! They’re cheap enough. Then 2 days storage is all you need.   

AVOID LITHIUM FOR GRID: Grid storage shouldn’t be batteries anyway. Save all that lithium for cars. The cheapest grid storage is off-river pumped hydroelectric storage. (PHES.)  I love off-river PHES as it doesn’t wreck the river. And because there’s no river as you build, it is faster, cheaper and safer. When finished, you slowly pump the water in from a river up to dozens of kilometres away. Cover it in solar panels to reduce evaporation. The world has been satellite mapped for sites. Every continent has 100 TIMES more than they need. Pick your best 1% and you’re done! Aussie expert Andrew Blakers explains:

Or see his paper here.

ALTERNATIVE CHEMISTRIES: Big oil is being replaced by Big Battery with all that R&D money. I really wonder if lithium will be king in a decade or so? These 2 youtubers are essential green tech gurus. I watch every episode. Watch their energy storage playlists. They cover everything from new metal battery chemistries, Thermal Energy Storage which is also AMAZING, and others.

Undecided” with Matt Ferrell. Here is his battery playlist.


Just have a think” with Dave Borlace. Energy storage playlist:

Electric vehicle playlist

This entry was posted in 100% renewable energy papers, Materials & Metals, Renewable energy, Storing energy. Bookmark the permalink.

9 Responses to Are we running out of lithium? 

  1. mikestasse says:

    We’re running out of EVERYTHING…. you just refuse to acknowledge it. Recycling is broken. Just like the health system, and education and pension funds. The SURPLUS ENERGY CRISIS is here. There’s no longer enough to go round especially per capita.

    The USA is in collapse mode already as is China, Sri Lanka, Lebanon, Egypt, Pakistan, Myanmar, etc etc… The party’s over. We tried to warn you 20 years ago but you’re full of crazy eco modernist BS.

    • Eclipse Now says:

      “We’re running out of EVERYTHING….”
      Apart from a few miniscule probes and satellites, all the metal we’ve ever mined is still on earth.
      EV battery recycling referenced above gets nearly 100% of the metals back – but burns off all the plastics etc.
      Not sure what “recycling is broken” (which isn’t the case for EV batteries) and your rant against education and pensions all has to do with your unsustainable premise that we are running out of SUPRLUS ENERGY! Of course, as usual, the Doomer diverts. Mixes the message. Rants against everything at once so that nothing in particular can get solved.

      But we’re not running out of SURPLUS ENERGY – we’re building it. Michaux was a strawman, and Morgan’s EROEI figures are a joke. Yet you quote them with the certainty and fervour of religious texts! Peer reviewed renewable engineering has analysed old low EROEI doomers like Weissbach and shown why his figures are wrong – and especially cannot be extrapolated to where most people live on earth.

      Seriously – you and your ROEOZ Doomers all complained that we couldn’t do a 100% renewable grid because of the immense costs of storage. But the question itself is a strawman. Why do only 100%?

      If renewables halve for months in winter, DOUBLE THEM! D’uh!

      Believe it or not – this stuff has been modelled and costed and even with the worst weeks in winter, some overbuild and 2 days PHES offsets it.

      “PV and wind allow Australia to reach 100% renewable electricity rapidly at low cost. Wide dispersion of wind and PV over 10–100 million hectares reduces cost. Off-river pumped hydro energy storage is the cheapest form of mass storage. There are effectively unlimited sites available in Australia. LCOE from a 100% renewable Australian electricity system is US$70/MWh (2017 prices).”

      We do a 200% grid! Then each city only has to build 2 days storage and if Sydney has a really bad week – even for winter with renewables DOUBLED – then maybe we borrow some of Melbourne’s or Adelaide’s PHES. Peer-reviewed experts have worked this stuff out yet you smirk and look at your dinky little solar setup on your farm. (Whose passive solar qualities I admit I admire – but the message is where we part company.)

      With cost-curves coming down, the majority of it will be built in the next TEN YEARS!
      It’s been on a doubling curve every 4 years for the last decade – and there is NO reason this cannot continue.

      And you’re just a cranky old doomer justifying your mid-life tree-change to yourself.
      The fact that you resort to Michaux and Morgan shows you desperate your search for ‘proof’ has become. One day you’ll realise what an utter strawman Michaux’s paper is – and wince with regret that you even mentioned him on youtube! You’ll be doing the dishes and wince, remembering his trite dismissal of PHES and TES, or his superficial reasoning for 4 weeks storage, or his apparent utter ignorance of the Overbuild in most renewables plans. His paper is as bad as all those trite climate-deniers that say things like “Volcanoes emit CO2 as well!”. Yet YOU admitted you ‘follow him’ on Youtube. And you said it with pride! That’s all on you, pal!

      • Eclipse Now says:

        You see Mike – this is an example of your Gish-Gallop thinking. Your categories are messed up. Sure plastics recycling is in a mess right now – the cheaper technologies are just getting sorted out. But I’m not discussing plastics recycling right now am I? I’m discussing Lithium. The question before us is LITHIUM Mike. And by law, at least 50% of an EV’s battery must be recycled. German recyclers have an almost 100% effective system – see the company below. While they might burn off the plastics, plastics are ‘renewable’ and we know how to synthesise more. But the important bit? They’re getting pretty close to 100% in their metal recycling.

      • mikestasse says:

        It’s ALL recycling. Recycling is done with surplus energy, the stuff left over after all the ESSENTIAL THINGS are achieved. There’s no longer enough to go round. When that happens, if you want to do unessential stuff like recycling, you have to steal it from some other sector of society.

      • Eclipse Now says:

        No Mike – before we get to recycling the first thing is you need to reply to my first comment today about not just linking to enormously long and repetitive rants. You haven’t answered Examples 1 and 2 above.

        Now, plastics recycling was a political and economic decision by China that has caught Australia unawares. The world is still burning plenty of fossil fuels and ever more renewables. Recycling is NOT dying due to lack of energy, but a change in policy. And one day those lower energy enzymes or even higher energy renewables ‘super-powered’ recycling plants will be set up, running on all that EXCESS power from the OVERBUILD they plan for coping with winter. In other words, where you see a problem called “WINTER”, Tony Seba and other experts see 11 months of they year where we will have ‘super-power’. What is Super-Power? It’s the excess we built to cope with winter, but put to work in the other seasons. In other words – if we built one lot of renewables to power our nation, and another lot to cope with winter – what do we do with all that power the rest of the year? Solar’s EROEI is 20 – some wind is 30. It’s got a high enough energy surplus. But unlike coal and oil, it’s so CHEAP we can afford to build it 2 or 3 times to cope with one bad season. So what do we do with it the rest of the year? Well – if the electricity market is FLOODED with super-cheap excess power – maybe we’ll run Gasification technologies that are too expensive today because we do not have enough cheap “energy slaves”.
        Or some desert country can Desalinate to their hearts content – or another place might make excess hydrogen. As long as the business model allows it to be shut down for winter – the world is your high-EROEI energy-abundant oyster! Why? Because… science. Science Mike.

        See Mike, you’re sounding more and more like an Astrologer on a confirmation bias binge. Every bad thing you see is squished into your worldview. Chinese plastics recycling gone? Collapse is imminent! Old age pension not enough? Collapse! It’s too rainy on your farm and it’s cutting your solar production? Collapse! But seriously dude – try reading outside your comfort zone. Electrification of Everything is on the way. Renewables ARE being built 3 times faster than every other source of power put together, solar HAS doubled every 4 years for the last decade, and is getting cheaper and FASTER. We have every reason to think it’s only going to *accelerate* from here. Australia will be around 80% to 90% renewable in just 7 years – 2030. EV adoption rates are INCREASING – not decreasing. Janus is slowly ramping up – and can power 10 BIG RIG trucks from each warehouse roof! So much for “When the trucks stop running.”

        But cheer up, we could always nuke ourselves back to the stone age. I mean, what if they elect another Trump and he goes head to head with Putin (or his successor?) Wouldn’t that make your day? But even then – although I’d be dead if Sydney got hit – I have reason to believe society would rebuild within 2 generations. This next link is just for fun. It’s a thought experiment that comes from watching too many Mad Max or Book of Eli movies – and getting frustrated with the lack of realism. We’ve learned too much for even a full-scale nuclear war to send us back into the Dark Ages for centuries!

  2. Eclipse Now says:

    Mike – just so you know where we stand – I will no longer be approving your rather entitled links to enormous papers. If you cannot be more specific than the “vibe of the thing” – and keep posting links to enormously repetitive posts going over the same tired old myths – then I will not be approving your comments. If however, you wish to quote say 3 paragraphs, then that is a different matter. Keep it under 300 words and I’ll approve it.

    I had a quick scan of your last doomer link, and found the same tired myths.

    Example 1: Wind turbines need rare earths in their generator! My goodness man – when are you going to get it through your skull that this is a minority brand of turbine? Only 23% of turbines use rare -earths in the off-shore variety – and even that can be phased out.

    As Amory Lovins explains: “In the four years since that Bulletin article, one key substitution it mentions — iron-nitride super magnets using no rare earths but with comparable or potentially greater performance — entered the market. But even without that magnet innovation, everything that permanent-magnet motors and generators do can also be done as well or better using two other innovations that require no rare earth minerals: control software and power electronics made of silicon, the most abundant solid element on Earth.”

    Example 2: “Oil, coal and gas are used at every step of the manufacturing of all alternative energy sources. They require long and complex supply chains that are currently very dependent on cheap transportation by trucks, planes and ships”

    “Electrify Everything” encompasses plans for mining as well – which reduces 87% of the heat, a real problem underground. Less heat = less ventilation. There’s also less dust, and less diesel and servicing. So while the capital cost is higher, the life cycle analysis is that ELECTRIC MINING IS CHEAPER AND BETTER!

    “Engineers began by removing diesel engines and fuel tanks from existing machinery and replacing them with batteries but the development is now taking a more holistic approach. “Today, the entire machine is built around batteries and electric motors, making a much more efficient machine,” says Pyykkö. That allows engineers to rethink the entire machine.”

    Transport is already changing, with 9% of vehicles sold today full electric which can run on rooftop solar – cutting the need for shipping oil and gas internationally and then driving it up and down highways. Just get the right solar panels installed every 30 years or so, and the right batteries to the car – and you’ve got an oil refinery on your roof! This is true for the household as well as the large freight business – like Janus Australia running up to 10 trucks from the warehouse roof!

    One day you’re going to have to deal with these FACTS.

    IF we face an oil shortage, oil will be prioritised to the most important sectors. We saw big government intervention in the pandemic – we’ll see it again in an oil crisis. The legislation already exists. We can run a high tech civilisation without as much international flight, and 40% of all international shipping is fossil fuels anyway! When the world goes wind and solar, we’ve already reduced shipping to 60% of what it was. 40% of that nasty oil doesn’t need to be found. Oh – and in a real crisis like terrorist attacks on oil infrastructure or war with supplying nations, there are plans to rig up our cargo ships with sails. YES it will be slower and vastly different to today’s freight – but if old wood cargo boats with the very first fridges on them could take lamb from Australia to England – then we can run a slightly slower version of the modern world on SAILING. Half the world’s population lives within 60km of the oceans. IF there is a sudden oil crisis – we’ll do this. Wood-gas was used in WW2 and would substitute to at least keep infrastructure and food deliveries running while the rest of Sydney learned to cycle and rickshaw stuff around. We’re clever monkeys and adapt.

    Think of it this way – when it only takes 6kg of lithium and solar panels to run an EV for a decade or so – imagine how many EV’s can be run on one mere shipping container of lithium compared to a whole oil tanker of oil! That’s what renewables efficiency looks like. You get stuff to the right place ONCE – then it keeps on working for decades. With very high efficiency – battery charging from solar on the roof is incredibly efficient. The EROEI of solar is around 20 – so that’s ABUNDANT power when the way we’re using it is so efficient! The electric engine is incredibly efficient compared to ICE – wasting all that energy dense oil by BURNING IT! How inefficient – given the 2nd law of thermodynamics? And – to get back to where we started – with oil you’re constantly having to drive stuff around and top it up. It’s not regenerating locally. Renewables do.

    Anyway, while peak fossil fuels is no doubt true, I have come to doubt the oil alarmists. They were far too narrow in their definitions of oil. It appears oil is far more fungible than the alarmists foresaw. The fracking revolution turned America into an oil exporter in the very years Heinberg and others predicted we would be hitting the oil crisis. You yourself promised we’d almost be in Mad Max by now because the oil production would have tanked so bad. I laughed so hard at you and your ‘certainties’ when I saw oil producers PAYING people to TAKE THEIR OIL AWAY over the last few pandemic years.

    And you have the audacity to keep promising and warning that the collapse is coming! Just a few years ago – like 2018 or somewhere thereabouts – you were quoting Gail Tverberg at me and warning of the complete financial collapse that would dwarf the GFC.

    Well buddy, we’ve been through a 1 in 100 year pandemic and are still here. Australia has a lot of debt, and things are not ideal – but civilisation still exists. As I used to say on ROEOZ – there’s a whole world of difference between even a Great Depression and Mad Max. Law and order and the ability to dial 000 in a crisis are a world away from the Road Warriors.

    So to answer Example 2: above about oil building renewables – it will do that until it doesn’t. Electric trucks are coming. Electric mining is coming. There ARE enough metals for all this – the oceans have a TRILLION tons of lithium. And the USGS says world lithium reserves today are 89 million tons – that’s up from 14 million tons in 2018. So they haven’t even reached peak DISCOVERY let alone peak production! And 89 million tons by 6kg per EV is about 14.8 BILLION EV’s – so ten times too much lithium to convert every vehicle on the planet into an EV! (Grid storage should be off-river pumped hydro as per Professor Blaker’s models.)

    I was saddened to see Chris Martenson referring to Simon Michaux. Chris is a numbers and technology man, and should know better. It explains why Michaux is so big in your doomer world. But Chris should know enough about renewables to recognise the myths as they appear – like the 4 weeks storage. Like using anything BUT off-river PHES.

    Once again – if your renewables halve for the winter months – DOUBLE them! This is such basic thinking in renewables models that some papers don’t even call it overbuild any more – they just talk about reducing storage requirements.

    • Eclipse Now says:

      Mike – you’ve really got a problem with that word Kevin Rudd loved to use – “specificity.” – haven’t you? How many times do I have to remind you to save everyone some time and grab the paragraph you’re most concerned about? See – nothing here grabs me as particularly Doomer – so you’ve downgraded yourself from Deep Green to Bright Green. You’re in my world now – a world where we despise greenwashing and harm done to indigenous folk, and protest about it because we actually believe in harm minimisation and protecting the environment and people. But your type? I thought you would just be down in the bunker, almost relieved that there would be less people to flee the cities as they crash and burn and then come streaming out into the landscape eating everything in their path. So yes, mining can be bad and unfair. Welcome to the real world! I despise the cultural terrorism Rio Tinto engaged in when they blew up the 46,000-year-old Juukan Gorge rock shelters. This cultural artefact was 10 times older than the pyramids and Rio Tinto just blew it up! Let’s not do that! Let’s not allow that! Let’s work to make sure we have the best environmental impact statements and rehabilitation laws enacted everywhere. I agree!

      But none of this proves that Lithium and Iron and Phosphorus mining cannot WORK – that it will not transport us as solar power charges us. None of this proves that they cannot replace oil. It just proves that – as always – we’ve got to stay on top of powerful groups of people whether corporations or governments.

Leave a Reply

Please log in using one of these methods to post your comment: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s