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Vulcan fires up European lithium extraction plant

Vulcan Energy Resources’ lithium extraction optimisation plant in Germany’s Rhine Valley. Credit: File

Vulcan Energy Resources has fired up its lithium extraction optimisation plant (LEOP) in Germany’s Upper Rhine Valley – a moment the company describes as a “significant milestone”.

The budding carbon-neutral lithium developer is nudging closer to being the first company in Europe to produce the sought-after lithium hydroxide concentrate – crucial in the manufacturing of lithium-ion batteries – for the European market.

Management has today revealed it has begun the commissioning phase for its LEOP and it is is expected to run until October, when the first bubbling-hot brine will be introduced into the plant for the lithium extraction process to begin.

The newly-constructed LEOP is a ramped-up version of Vulcan’s pilot plant that has successfully produced lithium chloride from its producing well sites for the past two and half years.

To extract lithium from brines, Vulcan is employing the adsorption-type direct lithium extraction (A-DLE) method, which has the added benefits of lower operating costs, greater time efficiency and a lower carbon footprint than legacy industry methods of lithium production.

In the extraction process, the company will use its proprietary sorbent “VULSORB®”, which it has demonstrated to have a higher performance and lower water consumption for lithium extraction when compared with other commercially-available sorbents.

From the LEOP, the lithium chloride will be refined to lithium hydroxide at Vulcan’s downstream central lithium electrolyser optimisation plant (CLEOP) in Frankfurt- Höchst and packaged up for further testing by notable offtake partners including Stellantis, Volkswagen, Renault, Umicore and LG Energy Solution.

The commencement of the commissioning of our LEOP facility represents a significant milestone for us, as well as the entire European battery industry. By 2030, Europe is likely to face a significant lithium shortage, which could have serious implications for the European battery and automotive industries if domestic supplies are not realised. Vulcan is gearing up to be the first to produce lithium from Europe, for Europe, but also to be the first company worldwide to produce carbon-neutral lithium. The start of the commissioning of our LEOP facility is a key step toward the implementation of Phase One of our Zero Carbon Lithium Project, and in enabling a secure and independent European supply chain for lithium. Vulcan Energy Resources managing director and chief executive officer Cris Moreno

With the company’s sights set firmly on a 2025 production target, it is also stepping up to help solve Europe’s looming lithium supply shortfall, with production forecast to supply up to 24,000 tonnes per annum of lithium hydroxide monohydrate.

Located in the Upper Rhine Valley that extends across France, Germany and Switzerland, Vulcan has its foot on a 300km “graben” system that contains a sedimentary-hosted geothermal lithium reservoir that hosts 26.6 million tonnes of lithium carbonate equivalent – the biggest lithium resource in the European Union.

Pioneering a carbon-free future, the company lays claim to the world’s first integrated renewable energy lithium extraction and lithium hydroxide project with net-zero greenhouse gas emissions, with the co-production of renewable geothermal energy on a mass scale.

As Europe sweats through one of its hottest summers on record, discussions around climate change continue to be front and centre as the subcontinent steers towards its lofty 2050 carbon-neutral goals. With the transition to a global electric mobile fleet in full swing, Vulcan is neatly positioned to meet the unprecedented demand for the critical battery metal with its net-carbon neutral lithium.

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