Will California's "Lithium Valley" Save Our Future?

Alex Koyfman

Written By Alex Koyfman

Updated May 15, 2024

Dear Reader,

These days, California’s Imperial Valley has been getting accustomed to a new nickname — ‘Lithium Valley’. 

And for good reason.

This landlocked, South-eastern most corner of the state is famous for two things: desolation and the Salton Sea, a saltwater lake which was once home to a thriving leisure community.

salton sea

All of that is fading into the desert sands, but today, as that lake’s water levels hit new record lows, this once bustling valley is starting to show new signs of life again. 

Locked inside a series of geothermal brines located around the Salton Sea is an estimated 3.4 million tons of battery grade lithium carbonate. 

salton sea

That’s enough lithium metal to manufacture battery packs for 375 million electric vehicles — or about 15 times the number of EVs in operation around the globe today. 

Just last month, a company called Controlled Thermal Resources broke ground on a $1.8B processing plant designed to extract lithium directly from the geothermal brine. 

The process, known as Direct Lithium Extraction, is a complete departure from traditional lithium production methods dominating the industry today.

DLE Is To Lithium Production What Fracking Is To Oil and Gas Production

There is no exploration or drilling in the traditional sense of the word, as the brines can be tested for lithium content in a lab, at which point feasibility is determined and the decision to build a plant, or not, is made. 

This cuts down the years spent exploring and drill-testing hardrock lithium deposits, to just months between brine analysis and production.

Though others in the sector have tried various versions of DLE, the Controlled Thermal Resources’ Salton Sea project represents the biggest and most ambitious investment focused on geothermal extraction to date. 

There are rumors that this complex will even have an on-site battery production facility, thus completing the production vertical. 

Other major players in the game, including Warren Buffet’s own Berkshire Hathaway Energy Renewables, which operates 10 geothermal plants, are also entering the space as the quest for cheap, clean, natively-sourced lithium heats up. 

But DLE goes beyond just geothermal brines. 

Another type of brine — otherwise known as “produced water” — is found on most all of North America’s oil and gas producing properties. 

DLE On Steroids… Diversifying Oil and Gas Properties Into Lithium Production Virtually Overnight

Used in fracking, this water shares many of the same properties of geothermal brine and is similarly rich in lithium metal. 

Up until now, however, few companies have come anywhere near being able to extract salable lithium at an economically sustainable price. 

The most promising which I’ve seen is also among the smallest. 

Barely $20M in market capitalization, this DLE company has proven its ability to extract lithium from solutions with concentrations as dilute as 35mg/liter (less than 1/10 the concentration found in many oilfield brine ponds), at a rate approaching 99%.

In doing so, this company has been able to achieve close to industry-low costs of production, with minimal environmental impact, and a set-up time measured in weeks instead of years. 

Once again… No exploration. No Drilling. Just plug it into the water flow, extract, and ship.

MI Black Lithium Image 18

This technology stands to be substantially more impactful than geothermal brine extraction, as the total mass of potentially accessible lithium is far more abundant than oil-field produced water resources.

Enough Lithium To Power The World… Right Here In Our Backyard.

Just for the sake of comparison, the rather modest and virtually unknown Northern Alberta oil and gas property where this company was doing most of its testing contains an estimated 4.3 million tons of lithium carbonate — 26% more than the Salton Sea. 

A major property operated by any number of today’s fossil fuel giants could potentially drawf these numbers.

For prospective investors, the deal grows even sweeter in that this company is already public, with shares trading in both Canada and on the US OTC. 

Regardless of how you look at it, or how you choose to approach DLE, the truth is clear: Traditional lithium extraction is about to go the way of traditional oil and gas production, and it makes perfect sense that this stage of the lithium revolution take place precisely where the last energy revolution began more than 100 years ago: North America.

I’ve been covering this stock for a while now, and as I’ve said in my podcasts, it’s my favorite lithium-industry stock of all time. 

That’s saying something. 

Want to check out the video presentation that I put together for my premium subscribers? 

Check it out, registration free, right here.

Fortune favors the bold,

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Alex Koyfman

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His flagship service, Microcap Insider, provides market-beating insights into some of the fastest moving, highest profit-potential companies available for public trading on the U.S. and Canadian exchanges. With more than 5 years of track record to back it up, Microcap Insider is the choice for the growth-minded investor. Alex contributes his thoughts and insights regularly to Energy and Capital. To learn more about Alex, click here.

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