Standard Lithium Completes Build-Out of Lithium Pilot Plant

Standard Lithium Completes Build-Out of Lithium Pilot Plant
Robert Mintak

Standard Lithium, the innovative Canadian company with a dream to mine south Arkansas' vast underground saltwater sea for lithium bound for electric car batteries and cellphones, has completed its industrial-scale extraction plant near El Dorado, officials announced Monday.

The plant, at the chemical giant Lanxess Corp.'s existing plant extracting bromine from the Smackover brine formation, is a modular, steel-frame structure built for year-round operation. The pilot project will test a proprietary method for extracting lithium by running brine already pumped through Lanxess' bromine-extraction process into special equipment to pull out the lithium that is also rich in the waters.

The project team, which included contractors Milam Construction of El Dorado and Hunt Guillot & Associates LLC of Ruston, Louisiana, is completing all utility and service connections, as well as brine and reagent supply and disposal lines, Standard officials said.

As soon as those connections are secure, then Standard Lithium's on-site project team of 20 "will commence the commissioning phase," according to the company, which is based in Vancouver, British Columbia.

"The commissioning of our industrial-scale pre-commercial plant will solidify Standard Lithium as one of the most advanced lithium projects in North America," Standard CEO Robert Mintak said in a statement using Canadian spellings. "Our recently completed Preliminary Economic Assessment contemplates the production of 20,900 tonnes of battery-quality lithium carbonate from existing brine flow, roughly five times the current domestic U.S. production, and that is without drilling a new well. 

"The successful commissioning and operation of the LiSTR extraction technology will provide the proof of concept required for a commercial build decision and then potentially to become the largest producer of lithium chemicals in the United States."

The project holds great economic development potential in the long run if the pilot plant can prove Standard's proprietary method for extracting lithium on an industrial scale. The partnership with Lanxess, which already has a huge brine infrastructure in south Arkansas, lets Standard piggyback its experimental approach with a time-tested industry leader, Mintak said.

The CEO told Arkansas Business that Standard Lithium's president and COO, Andy Robinson, will be in El Dorado this week along with a technical team from Canada "for system testing and power-up." He said lots of work remains, "but we are confident as we start the next chapter for the important proof of concept required to move forward to the commercial build decision" in 2020. "El Dorado, Arkansas, is the best place to build a project like this."