Lithium is one of many components of the salty brine, or produced water, that accompanies natural gas and oil production. It is also a key component of battery production for electric vehicles (EVs), power grid storage, and numerous other manifestations of the energy transition.

Recovering commercial volumes of lithium from the oil and gas byproduct would bolster the United States’ domestic supply of the valuable mineral, but it won’t be easy.

“Lithium is the target du jour,” Nick Pingitore, geochemistry professor at the University of Texas at El Paso (UTEP), told NGI. “Sexy, so to speak, because of the critical need for batteries. So decision makers focus on it.”

In February, the US Geological Survey (USGS) included lithium on its list of mineral commodities that...