EL DORADO, Ark. (KTVE/KARD) — Standard Lithium Ltd. held a virtual ribbon cutting this afternoon of its new lithium extraction plant which will be used for proof-of-concept and commercial feasibility studies.
“We’ve taken it from our first venture into El Dorado in 2017 to now having an operating plant, the first of its kind anywhere in the world to do this,” President of Standard Lithium Ltd., Robert Mintak said.
“People have been doing this in test tubes and its really small scale. This is the largest pure direct lithium extraction on the planet. No one has done this before.”
The Lithium Stirred Tank Reactor (LISTR) plant is located at the LANXESS South Plant facility approximately 10 minutes from El Dorado.
According to a release, this direct lithium extraction technology is an environmentally-friendly technology that selectively extracts lithium ions from tail brine that is a by-product of existing bromine production facilities run by LANXESS in south Arkansas.
The plant will run 24 hours a day and will feature an on-site lab to support the production. The normal process of producing quality lithium chloride solution takes months but it will now take a about six hours and it will not be dependent on weather conditions.
“We don’t use any of that passive solar evaporation. We’ve got a process that selectively pulls lithium ions from that same brine, cleans it out and recovers a higher effective recovery than the evaporation bonds and finishes with a higher purity product all in less than a day,” Mintak said.
“It only works because we’re in El Dorado. You have trained highly skilled operators because of the brine and oil and gas industry. You have all of the other aspects like the infrastructure that’s the backbone of those existing industries,” Mintak said. “So we wouldn’t have been able to do it anywhere else in the planet with the speed and scale that we have.”
Governor Asa Hutchinson, Senators John Boozman and Tom Cotton and Congressgman BruceWesterman all applauded the efforts of this Canada based company to make Arkansas the leader in lithium products.
“This cutting edge technology has the potential to put Arkansas on the global map for lithium a critical mineral to the United States economy,” Governor Hutchinson said.
Mintak hopes after the research phases, they will convert the material they produce into a lithium battery compound.
Then, they have to use that data from the distribution plant to prove the project economics which will guide the final investment decision to build the commercial plant.
“That will be sometime hopefully be in early 2021,” Mintak said.
The market the project is designed to fulfill is lithium ion batteries. Mintak says that is where the growth in lithium demand is coming from.
“It’s really being driven by electronic vehicles (EV’s),” Mintak said. “Now that Tesla is building a factory for the cyber truck and you have lithium partnering with Amazon to build electronic delivery vans in Michgan,” Mintak said.
“You have Volkswagen, Mercedes, BMW, Volvo, everyone making EV’s, over a hundred of battery factories announced around the world and lithium, which is one of the critical minerals you have to have for those batteries and no one is building projects to supply that so that we need to get through the next steps before we say yes to a contract with someone.”
Mintak hopes to have a very “broad” and “diverse” market, doing business with those domestic industries in the United States and Europe and hopes to broaden that to areas like Asia and Australia.
There is only one lithium mine in the United States which is in Nevada.
If we’re successful in Arkansas, it will be first new lithium project in the first 60 years and it will also, if we stay on target with our production, will be five times larger than the current production. It will quite an accomplishment if we will be able to do that,” Mintak said.