US Magnesium is one of the largest industrial users of solar energy in the world. Solar energy is utilized to increase the concentration of magnesium chloride in brine from the Great Salt Lake by nearly 20 times. Solar power is the Company’s principle source of energy, accounting for approximately 90% of the total energy input into the overall magnesium production process.
The magnesium raw material source is magnesium chloride (MgCl2) brine, occuring naturally in the Great Salt Lake and nominally containing 0.5% magnesium by weight. As part of the feedstock preparation process, US Magnesium utilizes expansive solar ponds to concentrate the brine to 9.0% magnesium by weight. The solar ponds, comprised of Utah state mineral leases, occupy approximately 75,000 acres and annually bring in between 20 and 35 billion gallons of lake water, depending on evaporative performance and need. The magnitude of this evaporation step is illustrated by the fact that less than one percent of the volume of the original Great Salt Lake brine finally reaches the plant for manufacture of magnesium.
This use of solar energy, as an alternative to electric power, has helped conserve natural resources and reduced Utah’s natural gas consumption by over 90%. Utilization of an alternative to fossil fuels also helps to avoid 10 million tons of carbon dioxide emissions at an electric utility each year.