via Daina Paulikas et al. 2020.

World - Study Proposes Making EV Batteries From Deep-Sea Rocks

Researchers from the University of Delaware in the US and Canadian deep-sea mining specialist DeepGreen claim that metal rocks found on the deep-ocean floor could represent a far less environmentally damaging source of EV battery metals than conventional approaches

The peer-reviewed study, published in the Journal of Cleaner Production, is a comparative life cycle assessment of EV battery metal sources, quantifying the direct and indirect emissions and disruptions to carbon sequestration services realized in the mining, processing and refining of battery metals.

Entitled ‘Life Cycle Climate Change Impacts of Producing Battery Metals from Land Ores versus Deep-Sea Polymetallic Nodules’, the paper starts with a demand scenario of producing four metals (nickel, cobalt, manganese, copper) to supply one billion 75KWh EV batteries with a cathode chemistry of NMC 811 (80% nickel, 10% manganese, 10% cobalt). It then compares the climate change impacts of supplying these four metals from two sources: conventional ores found on land and polymetallic rocks with high concentrations of four metals in a single ore, found unattached on the seafloor at 4-6 km depth.

“We wanted to assess how metal production using either land ores or polymetallic nodules can contribute to climate change. Looking from mining to processing and refining, we quantified three indicators for each ore type: direct and indirect carbon-dioxide-equivalent emissions, disturbance of existing sequestered-carbon stores, and disruption of future carbon-sequestration services. These three indicators directly impact the remaining global carbon budget to stay below 1.5C warming,” said the study’s lead author Daina Paulikas of the University of Delaware’s Center for Minerals, Materials and Society.

The study found that producing battery metals from nodules can reduce active human emissions of CO2e by 70-75%, stored carbon at risk by 94% and disruption of carbon sequestration services by 88%.

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