Tag Archives: Cornish Lithium

Watercycle Technologies to test direct lithium extraction solution at Cornish Lithium ops

UK-based Watercycle Technologies Ltd, a critical minerals and water filtration specialist, has been granted a £500,000 ($572,428) Innovate UK Smart Grant, in partnership with Cornish Lithium Ltd, to test its direct lithium extraction (‘DLE’) process in Cornwall, England.

Watercycle says its patented filtration process can selectively extract lithium from sub-surface waters, such as those found in the Southwest of the UK.

Given lithium’s essential role in battery technologies, the ability to obtain it from waters cost effectively and establish a domestic supply of the mineral is vital for the UK’s net-zero strategy, it says.

Under the terms of the agreement, Watercycle will deliver a containerised filtration system to extract lithium from Cornish Lithium’s project in Cornwall at a pilot scale. The project, which includes an environmental impact assessment, is anticipated to complete in October 2023.

Watercycle was spun out from the University of Manchester and is backed by business accelerator Aer Ventures. Smart, meanwhile, is Innovate UK’s responsive grant funding program.

Watercycle CEO, Dr Seb Leaper, said: “Having already proven that our proprietary filtration membranes and systems work in lab conditions, we are excited to be working with Cornish Lithium to demonstrate their scalability and accelerate the creation of a resilient, domestic lithium supply chain in the UK. This agreement marks the next step in our development strategy as we look at the commercialisation of our technology, which is capable of treating a wide range of water types and can deliver dramatic reductions in costs, carbon emissions and water consumption compared with current processes.”

Watercycle co-Founder and CTO, Dr Ahmed Abdelkarim, added: “It is great to be working with like-minded partners, Cornish Lithium and Innovate UK, which, like us, are focused on making a positive impact on the global transition through advancing innovative technologies.”

Lead Geochemist at Cornish Lithium, Dr Rebecca Paisley, said: “Working with Watercycle in the development of a pilot system aligns strongly with our research and innovation strategy, as well as our continued efforts to trial multiple DLE technologies at pilot scale in Cornwall to establish the most effective and responsible process flowsheet. We have a good relationship with the Watercycle team and look forward to progressing the project over the next 12 months.”

Cornish Lithium engages Ai Process Systems for hydromet work on TreLith demo plant

Cornish Lithium says it has engaged Ai Process Systems Limited, one of the UK’s leading specialist process engineering consultancies, to provide detailed engineering, procurement, supply and manufacture, installation and commissioning services (EPCC) for the hydrometallurgical section of the demonstration scale processing plant at the company’s TreLith Processing Site associated with the Trelavour hard-rock lithium project near St Austell, in the UK.

The hydrometallurgical section of the demonstration plant will use the patented Lepidico L-Max® and LOH-Max® processing technologies, which Cornish Lithium has an exclusive licence for to produce lithium hydroxide. These elements of the plant are being partly funded through a £1.8 million ($1.92 million) grant from Innovate UK through the Automotive Transformation Fund’s Scale up Readiness Validation competition.

The plant is expected to produce commercial samples of lithium hydroxide for evaluation by end users, such as battery producers and automotive OEMs. In addition, it will produce samples of by-products such as gypsum, sulphate of potash, caesium and rubidium sulphate alum. The company has already undertaken detailed metallurgical testing of these processes at pilot scale but will now build a demonstration-scale plant to validate the scale up and commercial viability of the technology, it said.

Jeremy Wrathall, CEO and Founder of Cornish Lithium, said: “We are delighted to be working with Ai Process as one of the UK’s leading specialist process engineering consultancies. Our Trelavour project team has developed a strong relationship with the team at Ai Process and we look forward to collaborating with them to successfully deliver the demonstration plant.

“The demonstration plant will not only provide further validation of Lepidico’s processing technology but will also provide key operational data to inform and enable the construction of a commercial-scale plant. This work will be key to developing a secure domestic supply of lithium from Cornwall to support the development of a resilient electric vehicle supply chain for the British automotive industry.”

Alan Parry, Managing Director of Ai Process, said: “It is a privilege to be working with Cornish Lithium on such a prestigious engineering project, which we believe is the first of its kind in the UK. This kind of lithium extraction process will form part of the next ‘industrial revolution’ in the renewables sector and we are proud to be working alongside a progressive company at the forefront of this new technology.

“Both companies have worked extremely hard together over the last year, making this project possible, we therefore look forward to delivering a successful engineering installation for both our companies, from our base near Burnley in Lancashire, to the beautiful surrounds of Cornwall.”

GeoCubed commissions Direct Lithium Extraction Pilot Plant in Cornwall

GeoCubed Ltd, a subsidiary of Cornish Lithium, has successfully commissioned and delivered the Direct Lithium Extraction (DLE) Pilot Plant at Cornish Lithium’s Geothermal Waters Test Facility at United Downs in Cornwall, England.

The DLE Pilot Plant has been designed to process Cornish geothermal waters using DLE technologies and is the first time that a DLE system has become operational in the UK. The £4 million ($5.3 million) plant is being supported by the Cornwall and Isles of Scilly Local Enterprise Partnership (LEP) with £2.9 million from the UK Government’s Getting Building Fund.

The Pilot Plant was successfully commissioned at the end of March, on time and on budget.

Initially, the plant will test GeoLith SAS’ Li-Capt® DLE technology and process the 140 cu.m of deep geothermal water successfully obtained during GEL’s testing at its own United Downs site last year. This is expected to confirm that lithium can be produced in Cornwall from geothermal waters, and the Pilot Plant is expected to provide sufficient information to enable the design of a commercial lithium plant in the county.

During the course of 2022, different DLE technologies will be tested using the Pilot Plant with a view to establishing the preferred technology for future DLE plants in Cornwall. The Pilot Plant has been designed to be as flexible as possible and has been constructed in standard 6.1-m containers, enabling relocation to different sites to test new boreholes if required, the company said.

In addition to making pilot plant progress, Cornish Lithium announced that it had reached an agreement with Geothermal Engineering Limited (GEL) to acquire its 10% shareholding in GeoCubed. Following the completion of this transaction, GeoCubed will become a wholly-owned subsidiary of Cornish Lithium.

Jeremy Wrathall, CEO and Founder of Cornish Lithium, said: “We are delighted to announce that the United Downs DLE pilot plant has been successfully commissioned on time and on budget. This is testament to the hard work and commitment of the GeoCubed team and our technology partners at GeoLith. The Pilot Plant will be a great asset for the company as we work to establish the most appropriate DLE technology with which to process Cornish geothermal waters.”

Watson-Marlow pumps perform at Cornish Lithium Shallow Geothermal Test Site

Five 500 series cased peristaltic pumps from Watson-Marlow Fluid Technology Solutions are playing an important role in a demonstration plant at Cornish Lithium’s Shallow Geothermal Test Site in the UK.

Originally built to test the concept of extracting lithium from geothermal waters, Cornish Lithium is now working on an upgraded version of the test plant as its drilling program expands, ultimately with the aim of developing an efficient, sustainable and cost-effective lithium extraction supply chain.

The initial enquiry for pumps came from GeoCubed, a joint venture between Cornish Lithium and Geothermal Engineering Ltd (GEL). GEL owns a deep borehole site at United Downs in Cornwall where plans are in place to commission a £4 million ($5.2 million) pilot plant.

“GeoCubed’s process engineers helped us to design and commission the test plant ahead of the G7, which would run on shallow geothermal waters extracted from Cornish Lithium’s own research boreholes,” Dr Rebecca Paisley, Exploration Geochemist at Cornish Lithium, said.

Adam Matthews, Exploration Geologist at Cornish Lithium, added: “Our shallow site centres on a borehole that we drilled in 2019. A special borehole pump [not Watson-Marlow] extracts the geothermal water [mildly saline, lithium-enriched water] and feeds into the demonstration processing plant.”

The five Watson-Marlow 530SN/R2 pumps serve two different parts of the test plant, the first of which extracts lithium from the waters by pumping the brine from a container up through a column containing a large number of beads.

“The beads have an active ingredient on their surface that is selective for lithium,” Paisley explained. “As water is pumped through the column, lithium ions attach to the beads. With the lithium separated, we use two Watson-Marlow 530s to pump an acidic solution in various concentrations through the column. The acid serves to remove lithium from the beads, which we then transfer to a separate container.

“The pumps are peristaltic, so nothing but the tube comes into contact with the acid solution.”

She added: “We’re using the remaining 530 series pumps to help understand what other by-products we can make from the water. For instance, we can reuse the water for secondary processes in industry and agriculture. For this reason, we have two other columns working in unison to strip all other elements from the water as we pump it through.”

According to Matthews, flow rate was among the primary reasons for selecting Watson-Marlow pumps.

“The column needed a flow rate of 1-2 litres per minute to fit with our test scale, so the 530 pumps were ideal,” he says. “The other consideration was choosing between manual or automated pumps. At the time, because it was bench scale, we went for manual, as we knew it would be easy to make adjustments while we were still experimenting with process parameters. However, any future commercial lithium extraction system would of course take advantage of full automation.

Paisley added: “The great thing about having these five pumps is that we can use them to help evaluate other technologies moving forward. Lithium extraction from the type of waters we find in Cornwall is not undertaken anywhere else in the world on any scale – the water chemistry here is unique.

“It is really important for us to undertake on-site test work with a variety of different companies and technologies. We want to devise the most environmentally responsible solution using the optimum lithium recovery method, at the lowest possible operating cost. Using local companies is part of our strategy, particularly as continuity of supply is vital.”

To help fulfil the requirements of the next test plant, Cornish Lithium has enquired after more 530SN/R2 pumps from Watson-Marlow.

“We’ve also requested a quote for a Qdos 120 dosing pump from Watson-Marlow, so we can add a certain amount of acid into the system and achieve pH balance,” Matthews says. “We’ll be doing more drilling in the coming 12 months, which will allow us to test our technology on multiple sites.”

Grinding Solutions leveraging Watson-Marlow pumps for Cornish Lithium testing

Watson-Marlow Fluid Technology Group (WMFTG) says Grinding Solutions, a metallurgical laboratory and consultancy service, is using a 500 series peristaltic pump from WMFTG as part of a new pilot plant for Cornish Lithium’s project in the southwest of England.

The pump features six pump heads to dose reagents into all six streams of the flotation process simultaneously.

As part of the same pilot plant, the company is also using a Qdos metering pump from WMFTG to dose flocculant into settling tanks.

Grinding Solutions has taken advantage of pumps from WMFTG for many years as part of bench testing operations, but the move to pilot scale operations is a first-time venture for this progressive company, WMFTG said.

After successful bench testing, Grinding Solutions is now undertaking pilot plant testing for Cornish Lithium, helping the company to develop a process to extract lithium from micas.

Pilot-scale operations enable Grinding Solution to confirm bench test results, build confidence and generate concentrate which Cornish Lithium can use for further testing, according to the pump maker. The pilot plant will also help its client to verify processes, understand costs and minimise risks.

“We’ve been working with Cornish Lithium for a couple of years now,” Jon Rumbles, Project Metallurgist at Grinding Solutions, said. “Steadily, we’ve progressed from bench-based mineral processing and testing, to a pilot plant. Rather than processing tens of kilograms, we’re now processing hundreds of kilograms.”

Grinding Solutions crushes, mills and separates the mineral into different size fractions, processing it to generate a lithium concentrate. Vital to the success of the pilot plant is the accurate dosing/pumping of materials.

Through the pilot plant’s flotation stage, there is a need to dose reagent (collector and thickener) at a constant addition rate. Here, the company takes advantage of a Watson-Marlow 530SN peristaltic pump with six 313 pump heads.

“The use of six pump heads means we can use a single pump to dose all six streams through the rougher and scavenger as part of the flotation process, which is very efficient,” Rumbles said.

In addition, the company is leveraging the benefits of a Qdos 30 metering pump from WMFTG for dosing flocculant into settling tanks at a rate of 10-15 ml/min. The flocculant allows for better settling, permitting quicker extraction of the water ready for recirculation back through the system, according to WMFTG.

“We’ve been using Watson-Marlow pumps for years, for both dosing and slurry transfer,” Rumbles said. “They are really easy to calibrate, while their wide ranging flow rate capabilities are invaluable. We have a number of 500 series pumps on site for reagent dosing, plus the Qdos 30. A couple of the 500 series pumps are fitted with larger pump heads for slurry transfer, while some of our 600 pump series models are linked to density meters. In fact, to facilitate automatic adjustment, we’re now looking at using the 4-20 mA input for even more control from live meters.”

As well as dosing viscous reagents, Grinding Solutions uses its Watson-Marlow pumps to dose sulphuric acid, which helps the system maintain a pH of 2-3.

“By using peristaltic pumps from Watson-Marlow, we’ve not had to think about issues like strong acidity and high viscosity,” Rumbles said. “As the pump heads are self-contained, we can change a reagent – and a pump head – without having to worry about damage to pump parts or cross contamination. In addition, we get accurate dosing and continuous flow from Watson-Marlow pumps, with no reliability issues whatsoever.”

GeoLith’s LiCapt Direct Lithium Extraction tech to be tested at GeoCubed’s United Downs project

GeoCubed, the joint venture between Cornish Lithium Ltd and Geothermal Engineering Ltd (GEL), has announced that GeoLith SAS has been selected to provide its Li-Capt® Direct Lithium Extraction (DLE) technology for GeoCubed’s pilot plant at the United Downs project in Cornwall, England.

GeoLith’s DLE technology was selected for use in the pilot plant following a comprehensive tender process. The £4 million ($5.5 million) plant, being supported by the Cornwall and Isles of Scilly Local Enterprise Partnership with £2.9 million from the UK Government’s Getting Building Fund, is due to be commissioned at United Downs by the end of March 2022.

GeoLith says its Li-Capt DLE technology is compatible with groundwater temperatures of up to 70°C and is able to treat low concentration brines.

During the selection process, GeoCubed and Cornish Lithium engaged with over 10 providers of DLE technologies to evaluate their effectiveness on Cornish geothermal waters. Following the completion of these evaluations, five providers formally tendered their DLE technology for use in the plant. GeoLith’s technology was selected due to the quality of its tender, the effectiveness of its technology, and the company’s ability to design and deliver a pilot plant, Cornish Lithium said.

The pilot plant will be used to process the 140 cu.m of deep geothermal water successfully obtained during GEL’s recent testing at its United Downs site, which will confirm that lithium can be produced in Cornwall from geothermal brine, Cornish Lithium said. The plant is planned to have a nominal capacity of 10 t/y of lithium carbonate equivalent and the results of the pilot are expected to provide sufficient information to enable the design of a commercial lithium plant in Cornwall.

Jeremy Wrathall, CEO and Founder of Cornish Lithium and a Director of GeoCubed, said: “We are delighted to announce that GeoCubed has selected GeoLith’s Li-Capt technology for use in this pilot plant. We have established a good working relationship with the team at GeoLith, who provided a demonstration plant, along with their operations team, to enable us to test their DLE technology on our shallow geothermal water samples in June. This test work provided excellent results and we look forward to working with them.

“The pilot plant being constructed at Cornish Lithium’s test site at United Downs will enable us to demonstrate what modern, low-carbon mineral extraction looks like as well as demonstrating the viability of DLE technology on Cornish geothermal waters. By processing the 140 cu.m of geothermal waters collected from the United Downs Deep Geothermal Power Project, the pilot plant will provide important data to enable the design and construction of a commercial-scale plant as we work to establish this innovative minerals extraction industry for the benefit of Cornwall and the UK.”

Jean-Philippe Gibaud, CEO and Founder of GeoLith, said: “We are honoured to have been selected to provide our lithium filter technology as the ‘technological enabler’ of this clean lithium mining project, demonstrating the feasibility of sustainable mining for the future. We would like to congratulate GeoCubed on this first semi-industrial lithium brine production facility in Europe.”