Firms partner on UK’s first direct lithium extraction plant for domestic supply of lithium

A milestone has been reached to deliver a domestic supply of lithium in the UK, with three companies from the north of England – Northern Lithium, Evove and Sheers – having signed an agreement aimed at delivering the UK’s first commercial-scale direct lithium extraction (DLE) plant that combines UK-developed technology, UK sourced lithium-bearing saline brines and UK process engineering expertise.

Successful industrial-scale production of battery-grade lithium from Northern Lithium’s Northern Pennine Orefield brines was achieved at Evove’s UK DLE Test Centre in August, and Northern Lithium is now targeting an initial commercial supply of lithium from its first planned production site at Ludwell Farm, Eastgate, County Durham in late 2026/early 2027. This follows the selection of Evove’s advanced DLE technology and process engineering expertise from Sheers. The three parties have now agreed to work exclusively towards the design and delivery of a commercial scale UK-manufactured DLE plant.

Success will allow Northern Lithium to roll out subsequent production sites with Evove DLE across a large area of the Northern Pennine Orefield, County Durham, where Northern Lithium has secured key long-term mineral and land rights, it says. Northern Lithium is targeting commercial production of up to 10,000 t/y of battery-grade lithium in the northeast within the next decade, to supply to UK gigafactories and the electric vehicle manufacturing industry.

The advantage of DLE with Evove lies in the ability to extract lithium at a high purity, according to the companies. In contrast to conventional approaches, the Evove system puts advanced membrane filtration technology at its core. This processes brines containing lithium very cleanly, reducing the energy, water and chemical footprint and improving the economics, the companies say.

Nick Pople, Managing Director of Northern Lithium, said: “We have come a long way in the last year having demonstrated the ability to locate and abstract saline brines present at relatively shallow depths within the granite of the Northern Pennine Orefield, County Durham, and confirmed the presence of potentially commercially-viable concentrations of lithium. We have also already successfully processed those brines at industrial scale with advanced DLE technology from Evove, producing battery-grade lithium carbonate. We are now, therefore, delighted to take the next development step and create this all-UK partnership with Evove and Sheers in a landmark project in County Durham to deliver a first commercial scale DLE plant within the next 3-4 years. Our ambition beyond that is to establish the North East as a key supply source for domestic lithium, not only providing a direct economic benefit to the local and regional economy, but also directly contributing to the UK government’s energy transition plans and targets to achieve net zero by 2050.”

Chris Wyres, CEO of Evove, said: “This partnership symbolises a really significant development in the UK, with highly advanced technology from the northwest of England paired with process engineering expertise from the northeast to produce lithium from saline brines in County Durham. We are delighted that Northern Lithium have made Evove their chosen DLE technology partner and that we can collaborate with our long-standing engineering partner Sheers to deliver what will be one of the world’s most advanced DLE lithium production plants.”

Sheers Managing Director, Roy Warren, added: “With Evove’s groundbreaking advanced membrane and DLE process, we have jointly developed a compact, versatile, adaptable modular layout that can be fully factory built and tested. The modular approach, which we specialise in, brings the advantage of high quality, reliability and repeatability, and drives down costs. The full automation of the plant brings down operation costs with minimal day-to-day supervision, accurate production quality control and remote monitoring for quick preventative maintenance response.”