Berkshire suspends salton sea lithium project referral

https://discussion.fool.com/t/berkshire-suspends-salton-sea-lithium-project/77218

See the posting on the Renewable Energy discussion board.

4 Likes

I was unaware of BRK’s work in the salton sea, so thank you very much for posting about it.

jan

1 Like

Hi Jan,

I have a couple of lithium postings on the old New Paradigm investing discussion board. Let’s see if the links work. Salton Sea is here:

https://discussion.fool.com/lithium-2-salton-sea-and-more-35154265.aspx?sort=postdate

The first one looked into foreign lithium sources based on leads from a Wall Street Journal article.

https://discussion.fool.com/lithium-35153655.aspx?sort=threaded

1 Like

Thanks… a friend of mine who is a gold bug, told me with certainty that lithium is the new gold. He might be right?

;^)

jan

2 Likes

Paul,

I wanted to recommend your great post about lithium. Of course lithium refining in Texas would be a great way to make the lithium pipeline more efficient.

Someone is beginning the process to build such a refinery.

And of course, it is Tesla…

Texas, Texas, Texasđź’•

4 Likes

Elon Musk recently said something to the effect that owning a “lithium refinery is a license to print money.” Is Warren missing a bet here?

1 Like

On any reasonable game show using “Elon Musk” and “Warren Buffett” in the same thought would be enough to have you voted off the island.

Is lithium going to be the material of choice for-almost-ever? What is the barrier to entry for others? What special expertise does one lithium miner have over another, or what durable competitive advantage?

This comment smacks of “gold rush”, which is entirely Musk, and entirely not Buffett.

5 Likes

Lithium is not rare. Traditionally most was mined in South America especially Chili and recently Australia.

In the US we have at least half a dozen brines that contain lithium that could be recovered. It’s not especially labor intensive but requires capital investment and reasonable margins to make it pay. DLE technology that avoids large lagoons slowly evaporating and waste streams is unproven but would be a competitive advantage.

Lithium refining is not difficult. It will be best where you have water for processing and cheap energy.

Commodity prices can be volatile. That makes investment risky. Especially vs China which will often under cut pricing to drive out competition.

3 Likes

Or in a country with domestic EV battery rebates

Mike

BRK is not suspending their Salton Sea lithium extraction efforts. From what I get from the Reuters article that pauleckler linked in the OP on the Renewable Energy board, BRK is continuing to build out their lithium extraction plant at the Salton Sea, hoping to overcome the problems with extracting lithium from the brine using DLE. They found it too difficult, though, to produce lithium hydroxide, which was specified in their grant application. So, when they turned to making the easier to synthesize lithium carbonate instead of lithium hydroxide, the US withdrew the grant, since that was a primary goal of the project.

From the Reuters story:

The U.S. Department of Energy had chosen Berkshire … for a $14.9 million grant to study how Salton Sea-region lithium could be used to make lithium hydroxide, a specialized type of the metal that produces more efficient and longer-lasting EV batteries…

… Berkshire said it had planned to develop “a first-of-its-kind demonstration plant to produce lithium hydroxide” but “subsequently decided to use a commercially proven process” to produce lithium carbonate instead…

Making hydroxide requires extra processing… If and when Berkshire is able to extract the lithium from the Salton Sea brine, making carbonate would be less complicated and expensive than making hydroxide.

5 Likes