CRM-geothermal (Raw materials from geothermal fluids: occurrence, enrichment, extraction) is a 48-months project funded by the European Commission that has started on 1 May 2022.
Geothermal fluids often carry high amounts of elements that the EU considers as ‘critical’ raw materials (CRM). Preliminary calculations show that even a single well has the potential to produce single-digit percentages of the EU needs. Combined extraction of heat and minerals maximises returns on investment, minimises environmental impact, requires no additional land use, leaves no mining legacies, has near-zero carbon footprint, and enables domestic supplies of CRM. To assess overall supply potential, CRM-geothermal will enlarge an existing geothermal fluid atlas by collecting new data and sampling wells for their CRM content in Europe and East Africa. The potential of different geological settings for combined extraction will be evaluated. Extraction/separation techniques exist, but need to be adapted to the harsh conditions of such systems (high temperature, pressure and salinities). Combinations of materials and flow-schemes will be assessed at lab-scale to optimise systems for different geothermal settings and CRM. A modular, mobile plant will be developed and deployed at existing geothermal sites to conduct pilot studies, investigating upscaling and system integration. The technological developments will be accompanied by assessments of environmental and social impacts to ensure good governance. An UNFC/UNRMS compliant reporting template will be developed to create trust among investors, regulators and the public.
The project will advance key reference points for stakeholder engagement, in order to obtain and maintain a ‘social license to operate’. Combined extraction creates new business opportunities for both SMEs and larger companies, and its economics under likely future market developments will be investigated with a view to proposing suitable business models. CRM-geothermal will open up a potentially huge untapped resource and deploy solutions to help Europe fulfil the strategic objectives of the EU Green Deal and the Agenda for Sustainable Development.