Standard Lithium Explains Its Direct Lithium Extraction Process
Standard Lithium, which is located near the Arkansas/Louisiana border, has shared a narrated tour of its LiSTR Direct Lithium Extraction (DLE) plant. Project engineer Will Smith gave a guided tour on YouTube explaining how the company built an operational, industrial-scale demonstration plant.
The plant is located at the Lanxess south bromine facility near El Dorado, Arkansas. It was commissioned in May 2020 and is now online 24/7. It’s fully automated with 700 monitoring stations that provide data every 1/2 second. The plant is being used to provide design and engineering criteria for a larger commercial direct lithium extraction facility.
Standard Lithium noted on its website that its south Arkansas project is “the largest and most advanced lithium brine project in the U.S.” It has a 3.94 million tonne lithium carbonate equivalent resource and is on a 175,000-acre site. The Lanxess Project is in the Smackover brine region and the company noted that the state of Arkansas produces around 9.4 billion gallons of brine annually. That information was shared by the Arkansas Oil & Gas Commission.
Standard Lithium noted that its patent-pending direct lithium extraction process, known as LiSTR, could not only reduce the recovery time of extracting lithium from brine from a year to just several hours, but could be much more environmentally friendly with a much smaller footprint compared to the conventional evaporation pond processes.
In the video, Smith briefly shared how the company gets its lithium.
“The Lanxess facility here has been producing bromine for over 50 years using brine and then pumping it back in the ground. We’ve since been able to tap into that. We bring it up to our facility to extract the lithium and then we send it back for redisposal into the aquifer.”
After a quick stop at the control room, Smith explained in detail how the company gets and processes the lithium.
“Lithium-rich tail brine enters our facility from Lanxess, goes through a filtering process where we filter out any inorganics. Then it moves into the heart of our process.
“The now-filtered brine moves into the loading stage at about 160 degrees Fahrenheit.It’s mixed with our absorbent for about 10 minutes.”
In the next step, the brine leaves the loading reactors and moves into the disposal process. The lithium-loaded absorbent goes on to the washing stage.
“Our now loaded absorbent moves into a three-stage washing process. Here, we remove any excess brine that may have been left behind. The slurry is also thickened up to prepare for the stripping process. So now, we’re about an hour into our process. We filtered the brine, we loaded it in the loading reactor with our absorbent and we washed the absorbent off. Now it’s time for stripping.”
Smith explained that in the stripping reactor, a dilute hydrochloric acid is added which produces a lithium-chloride solution that is ready for polishing. This is the final polishing stage. Next, he showed a large white tank that contains an ultra-pure lithium-chloride solution from the lithium found in South Arkansas.
The next part is to test the solution to see the results.
“With our plant running 24/7, we have an on-site lab to support the production. We’re able to test not only our product that’s in process but our final product. Normal processes take months to produce a quality grade lithium-chloride solution ready for lithium carbonate production but we were able to do it in a matter of about six hours.”
Bigger Picture, What Is Direct Lithium Extraction?
DLE is a way of extracting lithium by selectively removing the lithium compounds from geothermal waters. Cornish Lithium noted that this is the most environmentally responsible method of extracting lithium from solution.
International Battery Metals, which has a Generation 3 system that uses a selective absorbent and has a focus on renewable energy, shares some information about DLE on its website. The company says that its selection absorption technology eliminates solar evaporation ponds, salt piles, and lime plants. It rejects critical impurities like calcium, sulfate, and other minerals while providing water control and recovery tech that recycles more than 98% of the plant’s process water.
The European Commission noted in a study that when the lithium-depleted brine from the LDE process is returned back to the natural environment, the impact on the hydric balance is significantly reduced. That particular study was looking at the development of innovative and sustainable lithium extraction processes from medium lithium grade brines.