The chemical engineering team at Vulcan Energy Resources Limited has successfully produced the highest grade, lowest impurity lithium hydroxide (LiOH) to date at their pilot plant. Located at Vulcan’s commercial geothermal renewable energy plant in the Upper Rhine Valley Brine Field in Germany, the pilot facility utilises offsite downstream electrolysis processing as part of Vulcan’s planned commercial Zero Carbon Lithium™ Project.
The project produced graded 57.1% LiOH, easily exceeding the best-on-the-market battery grade specification of 56.5% LiOH that offtake customers require. Impurities were well below market specification minimums.
In the pilot plant, the sorbent extracted lithium chloride, which was then recovered with water and sent offsite. From there, a third-party provider purified and concentrated the lithium chloride to prepare it for electrolysis, which in turn produces lithium hydroxide solution. Finally, the solution was crystallised to produce battery grade lithium hydroxide monohydrate.
Vulcan’s brine contains embodied renewable heat, enabling it to use the commercially proven sorption method of lithium extraction. This produces a very high purity lithium chloride product, which in turn enables the use of lithium electrolysis to produce high grade, low purity LiOH.
The pilot plant has been successfully operating since April 2021 and has now produced sufficient date to complete a Phase 1 Definitive Feasibility Study (DFS), whose results are scheduled for January 2023. Work on a containerised Sorption Demonstration plant, which will be used to train Vulcan’s operations team in a pre-commercial setting, is also progressing well. Commercial production is slated to begin in 2025.
Managing Director and CEO Dr Francis Wedin comments, “Works are continuing apace on our Demo Plant and DFS, and we are looking forward to sharing further updates with our stakeholders in the coming months as we continue to execute towards our target of first commercial production from our Zero Carbon Lithium™ Project in 2025.”