Pennsylvania is sitting on major untapped lithium ‘white gold mine’ that could generate new billion-dollar industry, government study finds

Pennsylvania is sitting on major untapped lithium ‘white gold mine’...

The above link is to an article at the Daily Mail that talks about a lithium "find" in PA and potentially other bordering states. Basically, the wastewater from NG fracking contains lithium that can in turn be used in the production of batteries and whatever else lithium is used for. The obvious question here for those that have leased land for NG extraction - would this development be an added bonus that could eventually be worked into lease negotiations, or is it covered by current wording in a lease? For instance, there are areas in Ohio where the lessee receives royalties for both NG and oil, so would lithium be a similar case? This article is from a few days ago so it is early days, but delays would probably be related more to having a facility nearby that could separate the lithium from the wastewater - the wastewater is already part of the process from fracking. The Marcellus layer is mentioned in the article, but I would imagine that this could apply to the Utica layer and whatever other layers might produce NG.

If the Daily Mail site gives you trouble - it locked up my browser a bit due to their advertising - there is a similar article from The Hill that covers this report. Both articles were posted within the past 3 days, so definitely new news. Oddly, a couple of months back I saw an article about lithium mining out in a Western state, and started wondering if PA might be an area that would have lithium reserves. I did a search and found almost no info, but someone must have been reading my mind :) .  

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The lithium recovery from frack water would be a one-time thing.  When the wells are depleted of natural gas, perhaps a "new" phase would occur in which a solution is injected into the dry well to absorb lithium.  the solution is pumped out and replaced.  The recovered solution is treated to remove the lithium for use.  the process is repeated in a continuous cycle.  The possibility of this may also make more marginal Marcellus acreage more attractive for drilling.  Perhaps such acreage would have more lithium potential than its natural gas potential.  As for the Utica/ Point Pleasant, it is an entirely different, geologic formation with a different chemistry.   

Thanks Brian!  Won`t it take a great many years for a well to be depleted of natural gas?  Would the lithium recovery encourage a faster draw down of the natural gas to gain access for the lithium recovery?  Would the original gas royalty owners still benefit from the lithium recovery?  I like the possible increased interest in Marcellus gas wells in Tier 2 areas.   How is lithium transported? 

I would suspect that extraction of lithium might occur in eastern Pa. first because that is where the Marcellus business began.  I wonder if for instance, on some of these test bores drilled down into the Marcellus like Shell and East Resources did in Tioga County years ago might be revisited as test sites for lithium potential.

I am going to relay a short story here to clarify my simplistic thinking.  When I was a small child, Dad sunk a driven well by hand down maybe twenty or thirty feet for a water well.  He dropped a stick of dynamite down the pipe to explode open the area at the bottom to greatly increase water flow.  Yes, it worked fine.  So, would a gas/oil company create a minor explosion at the bottom of a Marcellus, vertical test well, pressurize it briefly with fluid to enhance absorption, and then analyze the fluid for lithium?  Could wells be designed in the future extract natural gas and lithium at t he same time?  With directional drilling, could the horizontal bore be drilled with a high spot to trap the natural gas, while fluid was introduced to capture lithium?  Would escaping natural gas bubble through the fluid to collect in the high spot?  these are fun things to speculate about, but something for the engineering wizards to answer.  From what little I am seeing, it looks like fluids may be being used already to extract lithium in places like Arkansas and South America, but I may be full of nonsense about this.

Interesting, how about the injection wells for flow back water?  There seems to be a fair number of them throughout Appalachia.  Eastern Ohio & Pennsylvania have some very active ones with more coming into service.  Would this water qualify for lithium extraction?

I remember hearing when I was a younger man how the oil wells near Oil City and that area in Western PA were fracked using nitroglycerine. There was a designated  explosive guy (any volunteers)  in charge of dropping a charge (probably a bottle) down the vertical well, and then BOOM a well gusher! was born.  Maybe some members from that area can deny or confirm if this was true. 

The lithium is in the water that's been dissolving shale for millions of years. 

Would water used for fracking dilute this water contained in the wells with lithium?    Sounds like a complex process.


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