Koch Industries companies are reinforcing their bets on Standard Lithium Ltd., the Canadian startup that has been extracting lithium from south Arkansas’ subterranean brine in quest of a new battery-materials industry in the old Smackover formation oil fields.
Standard Lithium, of Vancouver, British Columbia, has awarded engineering and feasibility assessment contracts to OPD LLC, a Koch-owned company in Katy, Texas, according to a Standard Lithium news release Wednesday.
In competitive bidding, the company said, OPD won contracts for front-end engineering design of its planned commercial lithium extraction and refinement plant in El Dorado and for a definitive feasibility study of its business prospects.
The news release described OPD, which stands for Optimized Process Designs, as a “Koch Engineered Solutions business specializing in engineering, procurement, fabrication and construction of commercial facilities.” Standard has been testing the viability of its proprietary lithium extraction process for two years at a Lanxess chemical facility in El Dorado. It has also started preliminary feasibility assessments at what it calls its South West Arkansas Lithium Project south of Magnolia, including a brine pipeline and possible lithium production facilities nearby.
Standard’s dual El Dorado plant, which makes use of Lanxess’ infrastructure for pumping brine from old oil wells to strip out valuable bromine, extracts lithium chloride and then converts it to lithium hydroxide for battery manufacturing. The company received a $100 million investment from Koch Strategic Platforms in November, and announced it had engaged Hunt, Guillot & Associates of Ruston, La., as lead technical consultant on its South West project. The engineering firm was also involved in building Standard Lithium’s El Dorado pilot plant.
The proposed commercial plant in El Dorado would process the brine “that is currently being handled by Lanxess at its South Facility, where the company’s continuously operating pre-commercial Direct Lithium Extraction Demonstration Plant is located,” the news release said. “The existing brine flow … is approximately 3,000 US gallons per minute,” and Standard foresees a 90% lithium recovery rate projected to yield between 5,000 and 6,000 tons of battery-quality lithium carbonate per year.
The first commercial project at Lanxess would proceed in phases, with M3 Engineering of Tucson working on special process and chemical engineering in Phase 1A. Projects in M3’s portfolio include the Daniel K. Inouye Solar Telescope in Hawaii and Jacks Peak Telecommunications Tower in New Mexico.
The FEED study is expected to be completed and summarized sometime in the first half of 2023. Standard President Andy Robinson said in the news release that his company is delighted to work with OPD and its partners.