Standard Lithium Ltd. of Canada, riding a wave of news like its appearance on the NYSE American stock exchange this week, has delivered a second modular lithium production test plant to the El Dorado site where it has been extracting ingredients for the lithium-ion battery market for well over a year.
The company, based in Vancouver, British Columbia, announced Thursday that it has delivered the second test plant, which will be connected to the first, to the Arkansas project site at the Lanxess South facility in Union County.
The company's initial test plant extracts a lithium chloride solution from the underground brine of the Smackover geological formation using the well-and-pipe infrastructure of Lanxess, a multinational chemical company that for years has produced bromine from the same waters, derived from oilfield drilling. Standard's second plant will take the lithium chloride, an intermediate product, and "convert that into a battery quality (or better) lithium carbonate," the company said.
The plant has been operating in British Columbia for a year, using lithium chloride shipped north from El Dorado and some sourced elsewhere. After long delays related to the COVID-19 pandemic, the refinement plant's modules were trucked into Arkansas on several loads and placed on foundations at the site. Standard Lithium's engineers and operators are working to connect and test the project with crews from Milam Construction Co. of El Dorado and the engineering firm of Hunt Guillot & Associates LLC of Ruston, Louisiana. Both companies worked on the earlier extraction plant.
Standard has been working for several years to prove its idea of building a commercial extraction plant at a scale that would dwarf the test plants, and the idea has been gaining momentum, with several other energy companies identifying south Arkansas' brine fields as a possible game-changer in the lithium mining industry.
Pulling lithium products directly from the brine would avoid the environmentally unfriendly processes now in use, including hard rock mining and deriving the element from vast evaporation ponds that require millions of gallons of water.
Crews will reconnect the modules, which had been connected and in operation in Vancouver, and make "all utility, instrumentation, control, reagent and process-flow connections" between the new plant, known as SiFT, to the extraction plant, dubbed SLI Demo, company officials said.
"Once the SiFT Plant is made weatherproof, then it can be hydraulically integrated and site-specific commissioning can be completed," Standard said in a news release.
After the two test plants are connected, crews will install a weatherproof structure at the site, with construction scheduled to be finished before August. Once the SiFT Plant is weatherproof, it will be hydraulically integrated and commissioned, the company said.
The SiFT plant has been producing 99.9% purity lithium carbonate for nearly a year in Canada, using products from the Arkansas site as well as reprocessing technical grade lithium carbonate sourced from South American brine operations.
"Due to constraints imposed on our operations by the COVID-19 pandemic, we have, up until now, been running the SiFT Plant separately at a location in the Vancouver area," Standard COO and President Andy Robinson said in a statement. "This work has been extremely successful, and we have produced large volumes of better-than battery quality lithium carbonate from lithium chloride concentrates made by the El Dorado Plant."
The company was also happy with its ability to turn very large quantities of low-quality material from South America, demonstrating "that the SiFT technology can easily upgrade off-spec material in a single, simple step," Robinson added.
"We're now thrilled to move the SiFT Plant to El Dorado, which was always our plan, get the plant connected and running, and then operate the only continuous, 24/7 start-to-finish brine-to-carbonate plant in North America."