Lake Resources’ (ASX: LKE) has stepped to the forefront in its plan to “revolutionise” and “disrupt” the worldwide lithium-ion battery sector with its expertise accomplice Lilac Resolution’s distinctive “clear”, extremely environment friendly, low price and scalable expertise on lithium brine.
In response to Lake, Lilac’s direct extraction expertise is an adaption of a recognized water therapy technique and includes returning 99% of the brine again to its supply with out altering the chemistry.
The expertise doesn’t require evaporation or mining, that are presently used to obtain lithium from both brine or arduous rock initiatives. Because of this, it has a a lot smaller environmental footprint and consumes a lot much less water.
Lilac’s expertise successfully includes eradicating the lithium from the brine. Lake claims it is usually extra environment friendly and quicker – taking days, not months and even years to get well the lithium.
In comparison with a conventional lithium brine operation, the Lilac expertise allows increased recoveries, and purity, with the method additionally aggressive on price and simply scalable.
Main enterprise leaders again Lilac expertise
In February this 12 months, Bill Gates-led Breakthrough Energy Ventures backed Lilac in a US$20 million investment round along with MIT’s Engine fund.
Breakthrough Vitality’s buyers embrace Amazon founder Jeff Bezos, co-founder of Alibaba Jack Ma, and Bloomberg founder Michael Bloomberg.
The $1 billion fund was established to help corporations with promising expertise that might scale back greenhouse gasoline emissions and environmental impacts.
“That is high quality, third social gathering validation in Lake deciding on Lilac as our expertise supplier – offering elevated effectivity in recoveries and a shorter time to market with sustainable lithium merchandise and a smaller environmental footprint with out expansive evaporation ponds,” Lake managing director Steve Promnitz stated on the time.
Mr Promnitz added the Lilac course of has been de-risked with take a look at work and profitable operation of a pilot plant.
“This course of isn’t actually new – simply an adaptation of a well-used water therapy technique, however now centered on lithium.”
Latest advances in lithium carbonate manufacturing
In the course of the September quarter, Lake has taken the clear lithium chloride product produced by Lilac’s pilot plant and created a 99.97% high-purity lithium carbonate from brine at its Kachi challenge in Argentina.
This conversion, accomplished by Hazen Analysis, an impartial famend group, makes use of a easy flowsheet that doesn’t make any important change to the estimated low working price.
In response to Lake, the lithium carbonate generated by Hazen had a 70% discount within the general impurity ranges in comparison with Lake’s earlier 99.9% lithium carbonate product.
It additionally has a 94% decline in impurities in comparison with the market’s extensively accepted “battery grade” 99.5% lithium carbonate materials.
“This course of optimisation was a important step previous to manufacturing of bigger volumes of excessive purity lithium carbonate samples,” the corporate said.
Hazen is constant to supply lithium carbonate samples for offtake events, beginning with 5-6kg pattern in its present spherical of processing.
Additional brine from Kachi shall be despatched to Lilac to supply further samples.
Lake’s lithium carbonate technique
Utilizing Lilac and Hazen applied sciences to create the excessive purity lithium carbonate, Lake’s technique is to supply brine from its wholly-owned Kachi challenge in Argentina’s Catamarca province.
Kachi includes 37 mining leases spanning 70,400 hectares and hosts a 4.4 million tonne lithium carbonate equal useful resource.
The useful resource is open laterally and at depth, with Lake estimating an exploration goal of 8-17Mt lithium carbonate equal.
The challenge controls a whole salt lake within the famend “lithium triangle” and is near Livent’s Hombre Muerto operation, which is the longest operating lithium brine challenge in Argentina.
At Kachi, Lake will use Lilac’s expertise, with Hazen’s enter, to create a superior lithium carbonate product for the market that may entice a premium worth with none important adjustments to the working price set out within the prefeasibility examine launched in April.
Lake anticipates the superior lithium carbonate product will entice “considerably increased costs” than it beforehand envisaged.
The prefeasibility examine, produced by a tier one engineering agency, Hatch, indicated the corporate would safe US$11,000 per tonne of lithium carbonate equal primarily based on the 99.9% purity product.
Hazen’s refinements, together with up to date worth expectations, shall be integrated into the definitive feasibility examine.
Lake chairman Stu Crow famous that the excessive purity lithium carbonate presently instructions between US$15,000-25,000/t.
On the decrease US$15,000/t worth this might greater than double Kachi’s publish tax web current worth to US$1.6 billion and have a money move every year round half of the capital prices
Though the prefeasibility examine was “compelling” – estimating a 25-year low price operation that might produce 25,500t yearly of lithium carbonate utilizing Lilac’s expertise – Lake expects the definitive feasibility examine will provide much more upside.
The prefeasibility examine is predicated on an indicated useful resource of 1Mt lithium carbonate at 290 milligrams per litre lithium – solely 20% of the full useful resource.
Capital expenditure of US$544 million was estimated, with working prices of US$4,178/t.
The examine predicts earnings earlier than curiosity tax depreciation and amortisation of US$155 million (A$245 million) within the first full 12 months of manufacturing which might improve considerably with a premium worth for the product
“Lake’s ambition is to sustainably produce the cleanest high quality lithium carbonate at scale to be used within the fast-growing battery market,” the corporate said.
In addition to Kachi as a lithium brine supply, Lake owns Olaroz and Cauchari, that are additionally near main lithium brine operations or superior initiatives.
Excessive tech finish customers take a look at Kachi lithium carbonate
Lake’s lithium carbonate samples have been despatched to Novonix’s (ASX: NVX) subsidiary for testing.
Novonix is on the forefront of battery expertise and has labored with tier one battery makers together with CATL, Panasonic, LG Chem, SK Innovation, Bosch, Honda and Dyson.
The corporate is presently creating “million mile” battery applied sciences and can take a look at Lake’s materials in nickel, manganese cobalt batteries.
Novonix is presently getting ready to start testing Lake’s lithium carbonate with the preliminary cathode precursor lithiation adopted by full pilot scale analysis.
Lake’s samples shall be used with business cathode precursor supplies to from a NMC622 cathode, which can then be processed into NMC622 batteries for testing.
It will allow direct and related comparisons of Lake’s lithium product’s efficiency in acquainted battery chemistries.
It’s anticipated the testing course of will take at the very least 4 months, with preliminary outcomes anticipated two months after the cathode materials is produced.
Mr Promnitz stated the corporate was assured Novonix’s testing will “clearly display” its lithium carbonate can have the required specs tier one battery markets require.
First manufacturing from Kachi to focus on rising demand
It’s estimated demand for lithium carbonate will develop from 300,000tpa to 1.8Mtpa by 2028 – underpinned by battery demand for electrical autos.
Mr Promnitz famous Tesla’s electrical automobile gross sales have outstripped inner combustion engine gross sales within the UK and EU – regardless of the worldwide pandemic – and the EU is now a much bigger marketplace for EV’s than China.
He added Lake is positioning itself to provide this demand as a “constant and sustainable” lithium carbonate supply with the power to scale up manufacturing as demand will increase whereas sustaining constant product high quality.
Lake is planning to start producing from Kachi by 2023.
“Demand for such a sustainably produced and responsibly sourced product is rising in North America and Europe as electrical automobile makers look to bolster their ESG credentials and using gasoline engine autos are phased out,” Mr Promnitz stated.
“Lake is ready to present a excessive purity product, constantly, resulting from each a clear brine and a clear expertise, with a smaller environmental footprint and higher neighborhood and water stability outcomes. Proper product, with ESG advantages, in the precise market that’s rising quickly,” Mr Promnitz added.