Vulcan Energy Resources has achieved a significant milestone by initiating the commissioning phase of its lithium extraction optimization plant (LEOP) in Germany’s Upper Rhine Valley. The company, focused on carbon-neutral lithium development, is edging closer to becoming the first European entity to produce lithium hydroxide concentrate, a vital component in lithium-ion battery manufacturing for the regional market.
During this commissioning phase, which is expected to continue until October, the LEOP will be readied for its operational phase, during which the actual lithium extraction process will commence using brine.
The LEOP, a scaled-up version of Vulcan’s successful pilot plant, has been designed to leverage the adsorption-type direct lithium extraction (A-DLE) method, which offers advantages such as lower operating costs, improved time efficiency, and a reduced carbon footprint compared to traditional lithium production methods.
Vulcan will utilize its proprietary sorbent, “VULSORB®,” in the extraction process. This sorbent has demonstrated superior performance and lower water consumption for lithium extraction compared to other available options.
Following lithium chloride extraction at the LEOP, Vulcan will refine the material into lithium hydroxide at its downstream central lithium electrolyzer optimization plant (CLEOP) located in Frankfurt-Höchst. The refined product will then be prepared for further testing by prominent offtake partners, including Stellantis, Volkswagen, Renault, Umicore, and LG Energy Solution.
Vulcan’s Managing Director and CEO, Cris Moreno, highlighted the significance of this development for both the company and the European battery industry. He emphasized that Europe is projected to face a considerable lithium shortage by 2030, and Vulcan is striving to be the pioneer in producing carbon-neutral lithium locally. This achievement aligns with the company’s Zero Carbon Lithium Project’s Phase One and its goal of securing an independent European lithium supply chain.
With a target production date of 2025, Vulcan aims to address Europe’s impending lithium supply deficit by anticipating the production of up to 24,000 tonnes per year of lithium hydroxide monohydrate.
Situated within the expansive Upper Rhine Valley spanning France, Germany, and Switzerland, Vulcan capitalizes on a sedimentary-hosted geothermal lithium reservoir that holds the largest lithium resource within the European Union, amounting to 26.6 million tonnes of lithium carbonate equivalent.
As climate change discussions remain at the forefront, Vulcan stands at the forefront of a carbon-neutral future with its integrated renewable energy lithium extraction and lithium hydroxide project, promising net-zero greenhouse gas emissions and the production of renewable geothermal energy on a substantial scale. This strategic positioning aligns with the accelerating global shift towards electric mobility and the ever-increasing demand for lithium in battery production.
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