Tag Archives: lithium extraction

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.”

E3 Metals receives provincial funding for Direct Lithium Extraction pilot

Canada-based E3 Metals says it has received a government grant totalling C$1.8 million ($1.4 million) from Alberta Innovates that will assist it in funding a pilot plant to test out its proprietary Direct Lithium Extraction (DLE) technology.

DLE technology, the company says, seamlessly connects conventional oil field and lithium processing, with the potential to unlock Alberta’s previously untapped lithium resources.

This direct brine process produces a concentrate feedstock that could be turned into lithium hydroxide using conventional production equipment, according to the company, with the benefit of DLE being that it can achieve at least 20 times to almost 100 times concentration of lithium (up to 5,300 mg/L) with a reduction of over 99% of all impurities and an extraction time of hours. This is achieved with average lithium recoveries of over 90%, the company says.

“E3 Metals’ goal is to commercialise its global-scale lithium resource and deliver zero carbon emissions, battery grade lithium products to the growing electric vehicle supply chain,” it said.

The funding provided by Alberta Innovates is to support the demonstration E3 Metals’ DLE technology by progressively scaling it up from the lab prototype to a field pilot. The first step will be a prototype operating within E3 Metals’ Calgary lab, and then a field pilot operating continuously on a site within E3 Metals’ resource area in Alberta.

“By demonstrating the process at a pilot scale over numerous months, the company plans to significantly de-risk its Alberta lithium project prior to scaling up to the anticipated commercial scale of 20,000 t/y lithium hydroxide monohydrate,” it said.

Alberta Innovates is a provincially funded corporation with a mandate to deliver 21st century solutions for the most compelling challenges facing Albertans, E3 Metals says. It does this by building on the province’s research and technology development strengths in the core sectors of health, environment, energy, and food and fibre, and platforms such as clean technology, digital technology for business transformation, data-enabled innovation, and innovative production and distribution.

E3 Metals has 7 Mt of lithium carbonate equivalent inferred mineral resources in Alberta within the Leduc Reservoir. Some 1.9 Mt of this is confined within its Clearwater lithium project.

Schlumberger aims to fast-track lithium brine extraction with DLE technology

Schlumberger New Energy has announced the development of a lithium extraction pilot plant in Clayton Valley, Nevada, through its new venture, NeoLith Energy.

The NeoLith Energy sustainable approach uses a differentiated direct lithium extraction (DLE) process to enable the production of high-purity, battery-grade lithium material while reducing the production time from over a year to weeks, the company claims.

“This innovative process can create new market opportunities for lithium extraction and battery manufacturing economy, and maximise the value of the lithium-rich resource base in Nevada with cutting-edge extraction technology,” it said.

NeoLith Energy’s pilot plant is a step towards a full-scale, commercial lithium production facility. The pilot plant results will be used to optimise the design of the full-scale production plant.

The production plant will use an environmentally friendly method for subsurface brine extraction and lithium production that requires a significantly smaller footprint and reduces water consumption by over 85% compared with current methods for lithium extraction from brine, it said.

Ashok Belani, Schlumberger New Energy Executive Vice President, said: “Nevada lithium resources present an excellent opportunity to demonstrate a leap in production efficiency with a more sustainable approach. Schlumberger’s expertise in the subsurface domain, development of process technology, and global deployment of technology at scale with various partners all play an important role in the innovation and efficiency of our DLE process. We are accelerating the deployment of our pilot plant in response to the high market demand for battery-grade lithium material.”

The pilot plant’s deployment is part of the Pure Energy Minerals agreement with Schlumberger New Energy for the development of its Nevada lithium brine property, using advanced technology to process the brine and extract high-purity lithium, maximising the lithium resource recovery.

Pure Energy Minerals previously developed a pilot plant design for the extraction of lithium brine through a design led by Tenova Advanced Technologies with significant contributions from SUEZ Water Technologies & Solutions, a business unit of SUEZ Group, and NORAM Engineering & Constructors. The facility at the project would have been the first pilot-scale implementation of the Tenova Process in the world, a process specifically designed to exclude solar pond evaporation, increase and accelerate lithium recovery, and reduce the associated environmental footprint of lithium production.

Commissioning of the DLE pilot plant will begin following receipt of all necessary permits, Schlumberger New Energy said. NeoLith Energy intends to begin operations before the end of 2021.

Schlumberger New Energy has invested more than $15 million in this DLE process and expects the development and operation of the pilot plant in Nevada to require a similar amount of investment.

This DLE process has the potential to disrupt the lithium economy by opening new opportunities to existing production regions and enabling new lithium production regions across the globe to meet the growing demand, it says.