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.