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Direct synthesis of high purity battery grade lithium hydroxide from low grade&complex mineralogy spodumene pegmatite

The project shall develop the technological capability of a novel electrochemical process, using hydro-electric power, to directly convert spodumene concentrate into high purity lithium hydroxide. If successfull, business modelling will commence aiming at setting up a european lithium refinery.

A number of global political, environmental and technological trends are driving the demand towards a rapid increase in Lithium-ion batteries, turning it to a strategically important domain for both industry and society. The increase in demand puts pressure on raw material supply and processing. Critical elements for which global supply shortage may occur include Cobalt, and Lithium. According to the European Commission Report "Lithium-ion battery value chain and related opportunities for Europe" ..... “the EU industry has some production base in all segments of the battery value chain, but it is far from being self-sufficient. In the raw and processed materials, cell component and cell manufacturing value chain segments Europe hold a minor share of the market.” It is obvious that if Europe does not claim a position in the battery raw materials value chain, we run a high risk of being at disadvantage should there be a global shortage of battery supply. The strategic threat this poses to our manufacturing industry is obvious. In addition, we lose profitable business opportunities to Asian players. Such a position must, however, be based on innovative technology contributing to competitiveness at all processing stages and to minimal environmental impact. Northvolt and Nemaska strongly believe that, whilst Europe’s share of Lithium resources is relatively small and dominated by junior players, the case of competitive production of wholly European, battery grade refined Lithium, is realistic. To realise this we need to develop the potential offered by technological innovation, beneficial domestic production factors, strategic partnerships and the internal market of the European Union. The proposed project shall develop the technological capability of a novel electrochemical process, using hydro-electric power, to directly convert spodumene concentrate into high purity lithium hydroxide. If successfully validated, business modelling will commence as well as securing legal and social compliance and a European refinery will be set-up and become operational from 2023. Spodumene concentrate will be sourced primarily from European producers, hereby fostering the development of a sustainable European value chain. In summary the value proposition of the electrochemical process is: - low and predictable operating costs; - virtually eliminates costly reagents such as soda ash thus eliminating sodium sulfate by-product which has no market value and is environmentally harmful; - significant reduction of green–house gas emissions (GHG); - Significant reduction of the sulfuric acid consumption by reusing the sulfuric acid generated by the electrochemical lithium sulfate salt splitting process; The project partnership comprises Swedish battery cell producer Northvolt AB and Canadian Lithium producer Nemaska Lithium. The core partnership is supported in the project by Luleå University of Technology, COREM research institute and five European Lithium-producing mining companies from Portugal, Sweden, Finland, Germany and Austria.
Acronym: 
DIRECT LIOH REF
Project ID: 
12 650
Start date: 
01-07-2018
Project Duration: 
20months
Project costs: 
520 000.00€
Technological Area: 
Mining Technologies
Market Area: 
ENERGY

Raising the productivity and competitiveness of European businesses through technology. Boosting national economies on the international market, and strengthening the basis for sustainable prosperity and employment.