Tag Archives: Lithium Australia

Lithium Australia’s VSPC finds Chinese partner for LFP cathode commercialisation

Lithium Australia says its VSPC subsidiary has signed a memorandum of understanding (MoU) with Beijing Saideli Technology Incorporated Co Ltd (SDL) to commercialise VSPC’s lithium-ferro-phosphate (LFP) cathode material.

VSPC has an R&D and pilot plant facility in Brisbane, Queensland, where it has developed advanced processes for the manufacture of lithium-ion battery (LIB) cathode powders applicable to all LIB chemistries, including LFP and lithium-manganese-cobalt-oxide (NCM). It has a strong focus on the application of LFP in energy-storage and transport applications, having last month signed an agreement with China-based battery and energy storage specialists, the DLG Group, to sell LIBs and Soluna energy storage products into the rapidly expanding Australia renewables energy market.

The most recent agreement with SDL will see the parties collaborate on a staged plan for VSPC to commercialise production of its LFP cathode material. This includes the establishment of a supply chain for VSPC customers in China, as well as a joint feasibility study for LFP production and supply outside China using VSPC proprietary process technology.

Lithium Australia said: “SDL has considerable expertise in the design and manufacture of process equipment and extensive experience in the construction, commissioning and operation of chemical process plants, including those for the production of LIB cathode powders.”

Adrian Griffin, Lithium Australia Managing Director, said VSPC’s MoU with SDL provided Lithium Australia with a “low-capital pathway” to the commercialisation of VSPC cathode powders, in order to meet targets set by its other partners in China.

“We look forward to working with SDL, with a specific focus on the anticipated growth of LFP cathode materials for transport and energy-storage applications,” he said.

Lithium Australia has, in recent years, rationalised its portfolio, but it continues with R&D on its proprietary extraction processes for the conversion of all lithium silicates (including mine waste), and of unused fines from spodumene processing, to lithium chemicals. From those chemicals, Lithium Australia plans to produce advanced components for the battery industry globally, and for stationary energy storage systems within Australia.

Lithium Australia goes further upstream with DLG Group pact

Lithium Australia, in its pursuit to produce advanced components for the battery industry globally, has signed an agreement for the joint battery marketing operations with China-based battery and energy storage specialists, the DLG Group.

The new enterprise – an incorporated joint venture (Lithium Australia 50% and DLG 50%) trading as Soluna Australia – has been established to sell lithium-ion batteries (LIBs) and Soluna energy storage products into the rapidly expanding Australia renewables energy market, Lithium Aus said.

In addition to the JV for the sale of LIBs and energy storage products, the companies have formed a technology alliance to fast-track commercialisation of VSPC Ltd’s proprietary cathode powders for use in DLG batteries (VSPC is a 100%-owned subsidiary of Lithium Australia). DLG will work with Lithium Australia to further develop VSPC’s cathode powders, initially with a focus on lithium-ferro-phosphate (LFP) LIBs, LFP being the ideal battery chemistry for Australian energy-storage applications, according to the company.

Lithium Australia explained the deal rationale: “A detailed investigation of the Australian energy-storage industry identified serious supply-chain constraints in the delivery of LIBs to Australian customers. Soluna Australia intends to provide a new and reliable supply source for renewable energy solutions to power users in Australia.”

Soluna Australia plans to apply the following supply-chain solutions, according to Lithium Aus:

  • Maintain local (Australia) stock levels of energy-storage products to meet demand;
  • Provide local sales and technical support;
  • Collaborate with customers and innovate to create energy-storage solutions suitable for remote-site and mining applications;
  • Evaluate the feasibility of manufacturing battery packs in Australia.

In addition, Soluna Australia will offer battery-recycling solutions through Lithium Australia’s battery recycling business unit, it said.

Lithium Australia Managing Director, Adrian Griffin, said: “Formalisation of Lithium Australia’s joint venture with DLG, which resulted in the creation of Soluna Australia, paves the way for the introduction of superior energy-storage products into the Australian market, reducing the carbon footprint of national energy consumption for both residential and industrial consumers.

“We foresee great potential for energy storage in fringe-of-grid and off-grid applications, as well as improvements in the utilisation of power from existing grids. Kieron D’Arcy (General Manager) and Raegan Jubb (Sales Manager) bring a wealth of experience to Soluna Australia and we welcome them to the team.”

Lithium Australia says it aims to ensure an ethical and sustainable supply of energy metals to the battery industry (enhancing energy security in the process) by creating a “circular battery economy”. The recycling of old lithium-ion batteries to new is intrinsic to this plan.

Lithium Australia’s VSPC subsidiary achieves world first with mine waste

Lithium Australia’s wholly-owned subsidiary VSPC Ltd has completed a world first; producing lithium-ion battery cathode material and lithium-ion batteries from tri-lithium phosphate that came directly from mine waste.

The feat was achieved using VSPC’s ground-breaking SiLeach® process, which removes the requirement for generation of high-purity lithium hydroxide or carbonate – long seen as one of the most cost-intensive and challenging steps in the manufacture of lithium-ion batteries.

The tri-lithium phosphate was converted to lithium-iron-phosphate cathode material at the advanced electrochemical laboratory and pilot plant facility in Brisbane, Queensland, operated by VSPC.

The cathode material was characterised by X-ray diffraction and scanning electron microscopy and determined to be of similar quality to VSPC-standard lithium-iron-phosphate material. Lithium-ion batteries were subsequently produced and tested under a range of charge and discharge conditions and the cells achieved equivalent performance to VSPC’s advanced cathode powders using lithium carbonate as the manufacturing feed, Lithium Australia reported.

“Battery performance compares very favourably against cells using standard VSPC cathode material produced with industry-standard lithium carbonate,” the company added.

The demonstrated ability to by-pass lithium carbonate and lithium hydroxide as battery precursors provides potential to significantly reduce the cost of battery manufacture, according to Lithium Australia.

“Not only that, the use of mine waste in the battery production cycle can provide greater sustainability to global lithium resources.”

The company is also developing the process for direct production of cathode powders from lithium brines to not only eliminate the requirement to produce high-purity lithium hydroxide or carbonate, but to reduce the requirement for evaporation ponds – one of the more capital-intensive aspects of setting up a lithium brine operation.

Lithium Australia Managing Director Adrian Griffin said: “The most notable aspect of this achievement is its simplicity and ability to streamline the processes and cost required to produce lithium-ion battery cathode materials.

“The broader application to lithium brine exploitation provides enormous potential for that part of the lithium industry, by removing the cost intensive route to lithium hydroxide – the direct use of lithium phosphate to produce cathode powders may do that.”

Lithium Australia’s VSPC subsidiary has been one of the fastest movers in this growing space, completing a large-scale pilot plant to demonstrate its SiLeach process at commercial scale earlier this year.

The company develops processing technology for the manufacture of nano-scale battery cathode powders (via its subsidiary VSPC), the recycling of lithium-ion batteries and low-energy recovery of lithium and other metals from silicates with its 100%-owned SiLeach hydrometallurgical process.

Lithium Australia hoping for SiLeach chemical production this month

The first stage of Lithium Australia’s SiLeach® pilot plant trial at ANSTO’s minerals piloting facility in New South Wales has ended with the production of a lithium-pregnant liquor from lepidolite feed.

Stage two of the pilot will see this liquor processed into lithium chemicals, according to Lithium Australia Managing Director Adrian Griffin.

LIT’s SiLeach process is a halide-accelerated, sulphuric acid digestion system, operated at atmospheric pressure. No roasting is required, significantly reducing the energy footprint when compared with conventional lithium extraction technology. The process also significantly benefits from a range of potential by-product credits.

During stage one of the SiLeach trial, which ran from August 6-16, the plant operated in continuous mode for five days, processing lepidolite concentrate at approximately 4 kg/h through leach, pre-neutralisation and impurity removal stages.

Preliminary data indicate lithium extraction in the leach circuit peaked at 97.5% and averaged 94% for the duration of the trial, according to LIT. Acid addition was 1,300 kg/t and fluorspar addition was 180 kg/t of concentrate feed.

“Leach results exceeded target, supporting the opportunity for concentrate grind size and reagent optimisation during design of the proposed large-scale pilot plant (LSPP, pictured),” the company said.

Operation of the multi-stage impurity removal circuit confirmed the expected rejection of aluminium fluoride (AlF3) in the first stage and encouraged further investigation into the feasibility of recovering an AlF3 by-product from this residue.

The lithium-rich liquor produced during stage one of the trial met purity targets and will be processed through to lithium chemicals in stage two of the trial, due to commence today (September 10). At that stage, calcium and fluorine will be removed and a lithium phosphate produced as a final product.

“Run in an integrated manner, the trial successfully demonstrated continuous operation of Lithium Australia’s proprietary SiLeach process, including full recycle of intermediate process streams.”

The company announced in July it was commencing the first of a two-stage pilot, with the concentrate used as feed for the trial prepared in Perth, Western Australia, under the supervision of Independent Metallurgical Operations. This consisted of lepidolite recovered from mine waste.

Samples of the pregnant solution have been provided to multiple vendors in order to complete solid/liquid separation test work, as well as confirm equipment selection and sizing and support cost estimation for the SiLeach LSPP front-end engineering and design study currently being conducted by CPC Project Design.