With power density that’s sufficiently high and a technology that’s now mature, lithium ion batteries are driving the rapid evolution of electric vehicles and mass power storage. Smaller, rechargeable lithium batteries have also earned their place at the table. They’re now the most common type used to power computers, cell phones, and other portable electronic devices.
Demand for lithium chemicals is growing rapidly. Unfortunately, the cost of these chemicals is rising, too. Lithium chemicals constitute less than 10% of the cost of lithium ion batteries, but that price is relatively inelastic to demand. Increased use has meant escalation of both product price and demand. In China, pricing for lithium carbonate recently exceeded $15,000/t and there is a shortage of spodumene, the main hard-rock source of lithium. New suppliers and support for the existing industry are both needed.
Lithium chemicals used in batteries must be extremely pure to prevent failure or fires. Large quantities of hazardous chemicals are needed to convert hard rock or lithium brines to usable chemical. These must be carefully handled and managed. Both the plant and the supply-and-product chain must be carefully designed to ensure the health and safety of the community, and the protection of the environment.
Process development and design
Lithium is recovered from either brines or hard rock, such as spodumene and clays. Each deposit is unique, so processes must adapt to the best business case. We have a detailed understanding of the various processes available or being developed to produce lithium carbonate and lithium hydroxide. We can help find the best strategies for your operation.
Studies and design reviews
With over 20 studies relating to lithium chemicals, we’ve helped introduce the bicarbonation purification of lithium carbonate to the lithium industry. This has enabled better-controlled production of high-purity, battery-grade product, and more sustainable business operations for our clients.
Process support services
New operators in the lithium industry sometimes need help. We can contribute detailed economic analyses, industry connections, and thorough planning and execution of laboratory and pilot-plant proving of process flow sheets. Our environmental services help shape the execution schedule, factoring permitting times into your plans early in project development. Tailings disposal, pond design, and reagent-supply logistics are key for new projects' success.
Safety reviews and commissioning
Lithium chemical plants use hazardous chemical reagents, typically at high temperatures. Health, safety, environment, and community are key design considerations. We design for safety, tailoring plans to match your capabilities. Our experienced global teams commission plants and optimize those in operation. Wherever you’re located, we can quickly move your operation into production.
Getting access to capital is tough for any business. To better suit smaller capital-cost plants ($100 million to $600 million), we’ve developed our “sub-billion-dollar” plant-design capability. The class-of-the-facility quality is determined early in design, and cost is a focus throughout the process. Sound 3D layout and appropriate construction materials are key.
Establishing new operations on a cost curve can be challenging in the lithium marketplace. Our deep process knowledge and financial-analysis experience enables us to undertake both technical and financial due-diligence studies.