Albemarle Corporation has been selected by the U.S. Department of Energy as a partner for two lithium research projects over three years through a Battery Manufacturing Lab Call.
The research may lead toward future production of lithium at Albemarle’s facilities in Columbia County.
Albemarle will work in conjunction with two DOE labs on the company's approved projects.
The first project, in collaboration with Argonne National Laboratory in Illinois, is "Advanced Brine Processing to Enable U.S. Lithium Independence." This research enables the development of a novel technology which provides a new production route eliminating steps in the current state-of-the-art process by going directly from lithium chloride to lithium hydroxide.
The second project, which will be done in partnership with Pacific Northwest National Laboratory, is "Scaling Up of High-Performance Single Crystalline Ni-rich Cathode Materials with Advanced Lithium Salts." This project will accelerate the commercialization of high-energy cathodes for extended battery life in the electric vehicle (EV) application.
"We are honored to have the DOE select these two important research efforts in partnership with Argonne National Laboratory and Pacific Northwest National Laboratory," said Dr. Glen Merfeld, vice president and chief technology officer, Lithium.
"Successful execution of the first project will allow for more efficient utilization of the lithium brine resource in the Clayton Valley area of Nevada and a new pathway to a critical lithium material. The technology could also help make U.S. geothermal and oilfield brines more economical, including our brine reserves in Magnolia, Arkansas.
“Through the second project, we will learn how tailored lithium salts can further improve cathode performance, leading to more energy dense and longer life lithium ion batteries."
Albemarle Corporation announced in 2011 that it had developed a proprietary technology for lithium extraction from brine. The company said at the time that the technology would allow the company to recover lithium that is present in the brines at its Magnolia bromine facility and utilize it to produce lithium carbonate.
Then-CEO Luke Kissam said a pilot plant in Magnolia successfully extracted lithium from the brine and predicted possible commercial production by 2014.
However, the company did not pursue lithium production from South Arkansas brine. Instead, Albemarle became an industry leader in the production of “hard rock” lithium from mines in Chile, Australia and the western United States.
In the meantime, Canadian-based Standard Lithium developed and deployed its own proprietary lithium-from-brine pilot plant near El Dorado in partnership with the German company, Lanxess. Standard Lithium said in a July statement that its pre-commercial Direct Lithium Extraction (DLE) Demonstration Plant has been operating successfully since late May, and has been producing concentrated lithium chloride product.
The plant has achieved around-the-clock operation using tail-brine feed from the existing Lanxess facility. The plant has been undergoing a series of optimization exercises to improve performance and reliability of the various unit operations and improve the quality of the final lithium solution.