Lanxess, the German multinational chemical maker that’s partnered in a major south Arkansas lithium-extraction project, will soon be producing electrolyte solutions for lithium-ion batteries.
Lanxess’ operations in El Dorado will provide battery-grade lithium for the process, a role first reported by Magnoliareporter.com.
The electrolyte venture is in cooperation with Guangzhou Tinci Materials Technology Co. of China, a global manufacturer of lithium-ion battery materials and the third leg of Lanxess' global foundation for a new industry plumbed from the salty underground waters of the Smackover brine formation.
Standard Lithium Ltd. of Vancouver, British Columbia, has attached a modular test plant to Lanxess’ well-and-pipe infrastructure in El Dorado and is producing battery-grade lithium products by extracting the element from brine Lanxess has already stripped of bromine. Lanxess is one of the area’s largest producers of bromine, an ingredient in flame retardants and other chemical compounds.
Lanxess, based in Cologne, will be producing the electrolyte formulations through its custom manufacturing subsidiary Saltigo, under the authorization of the Chinese company, company officials revealed last month. The high-performance electrolyte formulations will allow Tinci to supply battery cell manufacturers in Europe, Lanxess said.
The electrolyte formulations transport lithium ions within battery cells and are essential components of lithium-ion batteries.
One company official, quoted in Chemical Engineering Online, called the arrangement with Tinci a natural fit for Lanxess as the world increasingly turns to electric vehicles.
“The upswing in E-mobility is accelerating,” said a statement from Anno Borkowsky, a member of the Lanxess board. “Numerous new plants for battery cell production are currently being built in Europe. This fast-growing market offers great opportunities for Lanxess, especially in the field of battery chemistry. We already produce many raw materials for battery manufacturing.”
Borkowsky said the arrangement with Tinci was “another step in establishing ourselves in this market.”
Tinci describes itself as one of the world’s leading manufacturers of conductive salts in electrolytes. It has three electrolyte production facilities in China and is building more, Lanxess said. As a specialty chemical maker, Lanxess already produces hydrofluoric acid and phosphorus chemicals, both used in the production of the conductive salt lithium hexafluorophosphate.
Lanxess mentioned the Arkansas side of the equation in its news release on the Tinci partnership.
“In the U.S., The Group is also working on the commercial extraction of battery-grade lithium, an important feedstock for the production of cathode materials and conductive salts,” the company said. “The lithium is to be extracted in an environmentally friendly way from the brine used in bromine extraction at Lanxess’ site in El Dorado, Arkansas, USA.”
Standard Lithium CEO Robert Mintak didn’t immediately respond to a request for comment, but he told Arkansas Business last month that the company’s success in extracting lithium chloride with its proprietary process in El Dorado was poised to re-establish lithium production in the United States.
"Thanks to the adaptability of this advanced technology and the skilled workforce of southern Arkansas we’re on pace to bring online the first U.S. lithium project in more than half a century,” Mintak said.
The concentrated lithium chloride solution from El Dorado has been a proven source for conversion into lithium carbonate, the battery ingredient, through two different processes, through Standard’s own proprietary method and through conventional industry production procedures.
The company said it was important to prove two methods of converting the El Dorado lithium chloride into battery-purity carbonate, describing “successful demonstration of alternative technologies” as a key to reduce project risk and enjoy “greater flexibility regarding the final flowsheet that will be deployed at a commercial scale.”
So what’s next?
Now Standard is studying whether it could be economical to directly convert lithium chloride from the El Dorado plant into battery-quality lithium hydroxide, a different ingredient in battery production.