Volt achieved lithium recoveries of 90% based on concentrations of only 34mg/L by testing direct lithium extraction (DLE) technology in a simulated commercial environment
Volt Lithium is delighted to announce the findings of a successful pilot project, which tested its proprietary direct lithium extraction (DLE) technology in a simulated commercial setting (the Pilot Project).
The Pilot Project demonstrated the Company’s capability to achieve lithium recoveries of 90% even at low concentrations of just 34mg/L. Additionally, by simulating operating conditions at concentrations of 120mg/L, Volt achieved recoveries of up to 97% with operating costs below C$4,000 per tonne, assuming an annual production average of 20,000 tonnes (tpa) of lithium hydroxide monohydrate (LHM). Moreover, an unprecedented outcome of the Pilot Project was the confirmation that Volt’s DLE technology can maintain 90% lithium recoveries even at concentrations as low as 34mg/L, while still ensuring commercial viability. This accomplishment has yet to be reported by other lithium producers.
Volt president and CEO Alex Wylie said: “Volt has achieved remarkable and ground-breaking results through the Pilot Project, and achieved an impressive 97% recovery rate with 120 mg/L concentrations under simulated operating conditions. I want to thank the entire R&D, operational and engineering teams for their dedication and hard work in successfully executing this first phase.
“These results confirm that Volt’s proprietary technology is a true game-changer. With this accomplishment, we are poised to lead the way in North America as the first commercial producer of lithium from oilfield brines, which we are targeting for the second half of next year.”
In March 2023, Volt initiated its Pilot Project, which aimed to replicate a commercial operating environment and validate the economic feasibility of lithium recoveries at concentrations of up to 120mg/L. This concentration closely resembles the levels found in the Muskeg aquifer at Volt’s Rainbow Lake Property, as disclosed in the Company’s press release in May 2023. The Pilot Project serves as a means for Volt to confirm the extraction capabilities of its IES-300 technology and assess the operational costs associated with the DLE process, crucial factors in determining commercial viability and overall profitability.
Consistently, the Company achieved extraction recoveries of up to 90% utilising the IES-300 technology, even at low lithium concentrations of 34 mg/L. By simulating pilot conditions using brine concentrated to 120 mg/L, Volt attained lithium extraction results as high as 97%, accompanied by operating costs below C$4,000 per tonne. These figures assume a sustained average production of 20,000 tpa of LHM. In the following week, Volt plans to process brines with lithium concentrations of 120 mg/L through the Pilot Project, aiming to validate the results achieved in the simulated environment through practical implementation.
According to the company’s technical report, Volt possesses a total inferred mineral resource of 4.3 million tonnes of lithium carbonate equivalent (LCE) or 4.9 million tonnes of LHM at its Rainbow Lake property. This resource is more than 215 times the targeted sustained average production of 20,000 tpa. The lithium concentrations at the property reach as high as 121mg/L. This abundance of brine sources, spanning different lithium concentrations, provides Volt with a substantial asset base to progress its commercial development initiatives. Furthermore, the Company is actively initiating discussions to secure the necessary refining infrastructure required to produce commercial quantities of LHM.
Volt’s proprietary DLE technology utilises a two-stage process to extract lithium from oilfield brine. In the first stage, the oilfield brine undergoes treatment using established equipment and proven processes. During the Pilot Project, Volt successfully validated its capability to remove contaminants, achieving an impressive removal rate of up to 99%. This crucial step ensures the preparation of clean brine, which is essential for the smooth operation of the DLE process. The elimination of contaminants is vital as their presence in the brine can interfere with the DLE process and potentially render it economically unviable.
In the second stage, Volt employs its proprietary IES-300 technology to extract lithium from the concentrated brine. This process involves converting the brine into a lithium chloride solution, which is subsequently upgraded to LHM. LHM serves as a crucial raw material for batteries, particularly those used in electric vehicles.
Volt’s IES-300 technology offers the advantage of reducing the amount of reagent necessary for treating the oilfield brine as it enters the extraction process. This streamlined approach contributes to operational efficiency and cost reduction for the company.
The combination of consistently achieving high levels of lithium extraction, a streamlined process, and ongoing efficiency improvements has resulted in lower operating costs for Volt. During the Pilot Project, operating costs were demonstrated to be below C$4,000 per tonne. These cost efficiencies contribute to the robust economics of Volt’s operations, ensuring sustainability and anticipated profitability in the long term.
Volt acknowledges that expanding its asset base and gaining access to brine sources with lower lithium concentrations is crucial for future development opportunities. To achieve this, the Company recognised the need to attain extraction recovery levels of at least 90% even when working with brine containing significantly lower lithium concentrations.
During the Pilot Project, Volt conducted simulations of different operating conditions and varied cycle times using its proprietary IES-300 technology. The objective was to determine the parameters required for future commercial operations and validate the robustness of the IES-300 technology in extracting lithium from brine with the lowest concentration levels found in oilfields and other reservoirs. These simulations were carried out to ensure the viability of Volt’s technology in effectively extracting lithium from brine sources with lower lithium concentrations.
Building upon the successful implementation of the Pilot Project, Volt intends to establish a permanent pilot plant. This facility will serve as a platform to further refine the IES-300 technology, optimise reagent usage, and improve operating conditions. The ultimate aim is to continuously reduce operating costs, thereby enhancing the overall economics and paving the way for the commencement of commercial operations.
In addition to refining the technology, Volt will focus on upgrading its resource estimate and initiating the preparation of a Preliminary Economic Assessment (PEA) based on the positive extraction and operating results obtained from the Pilot Project, as well as the recently published NI 43-101 resource report. Furthermore, the Company will advance the engineering design phase to determine the optimal commercial parameters for its DLE process. These efforts are crucial steps towards achieving commercial production, which Volt aims to accomplish by the second half of 2024.