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Occidental and BHE Renewables form joint venture to commercialize direct lithium extraction technology

| By Mary Bailey

Occidental Petroleum Corp. (Houston) and BHE Renewables, a wholly owned subsidiary of Berkshire Hathaway Energy, announced they formed a joint venture for the demonstration and deployment of TerraLithium’s Direct Lithium Extraction (DLE) and associated technologies to extract and commercially produce high-purity lithium compounds from geothermal brine.

TerraLithium, a wholly owned subsidiary of Occidental, has patented DLE technologies that have the potential to process any lithium-containing brine into a responsibly sourced supply of high-purity lithium. BHE Renewables operates 10 geothermal power plants in California’s Imperial Valley, which process 50,000 gallons of lithium-rich brine per minute to produce 345 megawatts of clean energy. The joint venture has begun a project at BHE Renewables’ Imperial Valley geothermal facility to demonstrate the feasibility of using the TerraLithium DLE technology to produce lithium in an environmentally safe manner.

“This joint venture with TerraLithium represents a significant advancement in BHE Renewables’ commitment to pursuing commercial lithium production that is environmentally safe, commercially viable and leads to good outcomes for the Imperial Valley community,” said Alicia Knapp, President and CEO of BHE Renewables. “We are excited to be working with Occidental on this incredible opportunity to make the Imperial Valley a global leader in lithium production.”

Upon successful demonstration, BHE Renewables plans to build, own and operate commercial lithium production facilities in California’s Imperial Valley. The joint venture also plans to license the technology and develop commercial lithium production facilities outside the Imperial Valley.

“By leveraging Occidental’s expertise in managing and processing brine in our oil and gas and chemicals businesses, combined with BHE Renewables’ deep knowledge in geothermal operations, we are uniquely positioned to advance a more sustainable form of lithium production,” said Richard Jackson, President, U.S. Onshore Resources and Carbon Management, Operations at Occidental. “We look forward to working with BHE Renewables to demonstrate how DLE technology can produce a critical mineral that society needs to further net zero goals.”

Lithium is a key component in batteries for electric vehicles, consumer electronics and energy grid storage. It is also used in industrial applications to manufacture glass, ceramics and pharmaceuticals. According to the International Renewable Energy Agency, battery lithium demand is projected to increase tenfold over 2020–2030, in line with battery demand growth.

“Creating a secure, reliable and domestic supply of high-purity lithium products to help meet growing global lithium demand is essential for the energy transition,” said Jeff Alvarez, President and General Manager of TerraLithium. “The partnership with BHE Renewables will enable the joint venture to accelerate the development of our Direct Lithium Extraction and associated technologies and advance them toward commercial lithium production.”