Canadian-based Standard Lithium Ltd. announced this week the initial performance results from its operations in southern Arkansas where it is in a race to develop lithium from the Smackover Formation’s brine to supply batteries for electric vehicles.
Standard has a Direct Lithium Extraction process at its Demonstration Plant near El Dorado, Arkansas.The plant, in operation since May 2020, has processed more than 15 million gallons of Smackover brine that provided valuable data for the design and future operation of a full-scale commercial DLE plant.
“Over three and a half years of rigorous testing and integrated process improvements have provided us with unrivalled knowledge of lithium extraction from Smackover brines,” explained Standard Lithium’s President, Dr. Andy Robinson.
“The continuous performance of the Plant, over a sustained period of time, has exceeded our expectations and allows us to move our projects forward confidently. We now have a tested and proven DLE technology and integrated flowsheet that we can apply across our series of world-class Smackover assets with our current and future partners”.
He said the findings show the lithium brine from the Smackover formation is comparable to that found in Chile and Argentina.
- Lithium Recovery Efficiency: During a representative period of performance over July and August 2023, the LiPROTM LSS (DLE) process achieved an average lithium recovery of 96.1% from the continuous incoming brine flow.
- Element Rejection Rate: During the same period, the DLE process rejected, on average, over 99% of the key contaminants sodium, calcium, magnesium and potassium from the brine (i.e. less than 1% of those contaminants made it through the DLE into the first lithium chloride solution); and over 95% of boron was rejected.
- Operational Cycles: The LiPROTM LSS (DLE) process has completed over 8,000 operational cycles.
- Brine Processed: As of the end of September 2023, the Demo Plant had processed 15,467,815 gallons (58,552,049 litres) of Smackover brine, produced directly from the formation and reinjected continuously back into the same formation.
- Product: The LiPROTM LSS (DLE) initial product has been further purified and concentrated in the integrated Plant to form a final LiCl solution (the “Intermediate Product”) containing over 10,000 mg/L lithium. This Intermediate Product has been shipped off-site and has been successfully converted to both battery quality lithium carbonate and lithium hydroxide.
The company said in a press release that one of the fundamental findings of the Demonstration Plant is the necessity of long-duration, on-site continuous processing of real brine. In traditional small-scale, short-term off-site batch processes, where brine is isolated, transported and often undergoes physical and chemical changes before testing, the Demo Plant handles real Smackover brine directly from the resource.
Standard stated that the long-term operation of the Demo Plant has been crucial in replicating and understanding the real-world dynamic conditions of continuous commercial-scale operations. In addition, operating the Demo Plant for an extended period has allowed Standard Lithium and its Joint Development Partners, Koch Technology Solutions, to tailor and optimise all parts of the multi-step flowsheet that allow the Plant to be scaled-up for commercial production.