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Vulcan lithium project gets green tick for green credentials

Vulcan Energy Resources engaging with stakeholders. Credit: File.

Vulcan Energy Resources’ Zero Carbon Lithium project in Germany’s Upper Rhine Valley has been given a green tick of approval in an independent assessment of its phase-one environmental and social impact.

The study, conducted by global consulting group Environmental Resources Management (ERM), validated the project as a world leader in sustainability and social benefits, representing an important prerequisite for Vulcan to be able to meet lenders’ requirements to ensure high environmental performance. Management says it is a key milestone as it charges towards raising green debt financing.

The resource contained within Vulcan’s Upper Rhine Valley brine field is the biggest in Europe, with 27.7 million tonnes of contained lithium carbonate equivalent (LCE) at 175 milligrams per litre (mg/L). The company plans to co-produce the lithium in addition to geothermal energy on a mass scale, making it a world-first in carbon-neutral lithium production.

Vulcan says the environmental and social impact assessment highlighted the co-production as a positive element of the project. ERM notes that there are no potential impacts classed as greater than minor during the construction, operation or decommissioning phases of the project and most of the potential impacts have been classified as insignificant.

Management says the report also emphasises the project’s potential to create energy transition jobs, stimulate innovation and research in green technologies and provide renewable heating for local communities.

The company has previously said its energy production target from the project is up to 560 gigawatt hours per annum (GWh/a) of baseload renewable heating for the local community’s commercial and domestic applications and up to 275 GWh/a of baseload power to be sold into the local grid.

The ERM assessment also outlines that the project’s location on industrial and farming land does not cause any material negative impact to the local environment, with nearby farming activities able to continue uninterrupted during production.

Management says its phase-one project level debt financing process has already been initiated following the ERM report and an environmental and social management plan has been completed ahead of construction kicking-off at the project.

The completion of the Environmental and Social Impact Assessment marks a significant milestone in the advancement of our Zero Carbon Lithium Project. The ESIA has validated the world-leading sustainability and social benefits our integrated renewable energy and lithium project will deliver to stakeholders. Vulcan Energy Resources’ environmental, social, and corporate governance lead Storm Taylor.

The company has already launched operations at its demonstration plant and it says the 40 tonnes of lithium hydroxide it will produce each year will be used and tested by offtake partners as it scales up for its bigger operation. The project’s ultimate extraction plant is expected to produce some 24,000 tonnes of lithium hydroxide a year once it enters its commercial phase from 2026.

Vulcan has already successfully tested and piloted lithium production for nearly three years at its pilot plants in Insheim and Landau. It says that more than 10,000 hours of testing of its “VULSORB” lithium absorption technology shows a high level of performance relative to other commercially-available products.

The company also says its brines are amenable to a sustainable adsorption-type direct lithium extraction (A-DLE) production process, which accounts for 10 per cent of global lithium production and can be used to achieve high lithium recoveries in thousands of cycles of sorbent life without degradation.

Vulcan’s Zero Carbon Lithium project is stated as being Europe’s first integrated project delivering renewable energy and lithium. With the European Union mandating targets for all new cars to be 100 per cent electric by 2035, Vulcan’s lithium may well find a settled home in the 100-million-tonne demand that mandate will create.

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