First commercial lithium production in Europe

First commercial lithium production in Europe

Business news |
By Nick Flaherty

Vulcan Energy Resources has started production of Lithium Chloride (LiCl), the first in Europe and a key part of the battery supply chain  for electric vehicles.

Vulcan is producing lithium chloride at its Lithium Extraction Optimisation Plant (LEOP) in Landau, Germany, using brine.

The €40m LEOP plant is showing strong early results with consistently over 90% (up to 95%) lithium extraction efficiency from its Adsorption-type Direct Lithium Extraction (A-DLE) unit, replicating what Vulcan has seen in its lab and pilot plant operations, and in line with its commercial plant expectations and Vulcan’s financing model.

VW teams for European battery supply chain 


The start of production follows over three years and more than 10,000 hours of successful in-house A-DLE piloting by Vulcan, showing high lithium recoveries and thousands of cycles of adsorbent life with no material degradation.

This is the first stage of production for optimisation, operational training and product qualification testing ready for the Phase One commercial facility in the next few months. This is expected to produce enough lithium for 500,000 EVs. The company has a supply chain partnership with Volkswagen.

Vulcan has proven that the sustainable lithium production process known as A-DLE, which accounts for 10% of global lithium production today, can be successfully applied in the Upper Rhine Valley Brine Field. This contains Europe’s largest lithium resource and is also a source of geothermal renewable heat. This will allow Vulcan to produce its lithium using geothermal renewable energy, decarbonising the footprint of lithium production.

The LiCl produced by LEOP represents the first lithium chemicals fully produced from a locally sourced raw material, i.e. extracted and then processed locally, at this plant scale in Europe. During hot commissioning and startup of LEOP, a generic aluminate-based lithium adsorbent was used, that has been used before in Vulcan’s lab and pilot plants. Vulcan’s  aluminate-based lithium adsorbent VULSORB will be used for the long-term operation.

The next step will be conversion to a battery-grade lithium chemical in Vulcan’s downstream optimisation plant. The LiCl product (40% weight solution) produced from LEOP will be transported to Höchst Industrial Park Frankfurt, where Vulcan is currently completing its CLEOP which will convert the LiCl into battery grade Lithium Hydroxide Monohydrate (LHM).

“This significant milestone marks a pivotal moment in Vulcan’s journey towards revolutionising domestic lithium raw material supply for Europe’s Battery industry,” said Vulcan’s Managing Director and CEO, Cris Moreno.
“Vulcan’s LEOP facility is equipped with world-leading technology designed to showcase the efficiency of our A-DLE process and environmental benefits whilst training our commercial production team in a pre-commercial environment as we build the Phase One commercial plant. It is encouraging to see LEOP deliver extraction efficiency in line with our expectations. We look forward to providing further updates on our Central Lithium Electrolysis Optimisation Plant (CLEOP) as we aim to produce Europe’s first fully integrated lithium battery chemicals from our own domestic resource and also to providing updates on Phase One of the Zero Carbon Lithium Project, in the coming months.”

Once CLEOP is in operation, which is expected in mid-2024, Vulcan will have produced the first fully integrated lithium battery chemicals in Europe, including conversion to a battery-grade chemical, with the co-production of renewable energy and heat. These optimisation plants are comparable to Vulcan’s Phase One, commercial plants, with similar process flowsheets, with the commercial project aiming for 24,000 tonnes per annum of lithium hydroxide production capacity, the financing process of which is currently being led by BNP Paribas.

There are several lithium projects in the UK as well. French mining company Imerys is extracting lithium from clay spoil in in Cornwall, UK, using a process developed by British Lithium, while Cornish Lithium is extracting the material from minerals and from brine.

If you enjoyed this article, you will like the following ones: don't miss them by subscribing to :    eeNews on Google News


Linked Articles