Northern Lithium Ltd. (Northern Lithium) and Evove Ltd. (Evove) have joined forces to produce battery-grade lithium carbonate from saline brines at industrial scale.
This key milestone has been achieved using saline brines extracted from the Northern Pennine Orefield, northeast of England, by Northern Lithium, a privately-owned innovative mineral exploration and development company based in County Durham. The brines were processed at a specialist pilot plant in Widnes, northwest of England, using innovative new Direct Lithium Extraction (DLE) technology developed by Cheshire-based membrane filtration experts, Evove.
Trials conducted at Evove’s new DLE Test Centre in August have so far produced around 2 kilograms of battery-grade lithium carbonate at a purity level above 99.5%, confirming the commercial potential of Northern Lithium’s saline brines.
Lithium is a critical raw material in the manufacture of rechargeable batteries. This milestone is therefore welcome news for UK gigafactories and the country’s electric vehicle and power storage industries that must otherwise depend on imported lithium, mainly from Asia, Australia and South America. A secure domestic supply of battery-grade lithium will provide significant environmental and economic benefits, as well as reduce the UK’s exposure to global supply chain disruptions. It is forecast that the UK will need up to 80,000 tonnes of Lithium Carbonate Equivalent per year by 2030 and as much as 135,000 tonnes per year by 2040.
“The quality and quantity of lithium carbonate that has been produced at industrial scale is incredibly exciting,” commented Nick Pople, Northern Lithium Managing Director. “Our goal is to reach commercial production of between 5,000 to 10,000 tonnes of battery-grade lithium per year from several production areas across the Northern Pennine Orefield over the next decade. The material produced by Evove’s DLE membrane filtration technology confirms the purity of our brines and ability to deliver a commercially viable solution. It is a huge step forward and gives us the green light to quickly begin scaling up activities.”
“We have developed a strong partnership with Northern Lithium, enabling us to move rapidly to deliver this significant milestone,” said Chris Wyres, Evove CEO. “Processing large quantities of real brines validates the industrial scalability of our DLE solution and its ability to produce high purity battery-grade materials, both cost effectively and sustainably.”
“Northern Lithium’s brines are some of the easiest and cleanest saline brines we have tested to date,” continued Dr. Wyres. “This would make them relatively cheap and straightforward to process on a commercial scale, meaning low operating and capital costs.”
Northern Lithium Founder and Chairman, Richard Morecombe, added: “Thanks to Evove’s technology and expertise, we can now move straight from this pilot to full-scale production. It’s vital that the UK secures a sustainable supply of lithium from domestic sources as quickly as possible, and it now looks certain that the North East and North West will both play a key role in that quest.”
Minister for Industry and Economic Security Nusrat Ghani said:
“This is another exciting milestone for our domestic supply of critical minerals and the UK’s car industry as we look to ramp up our electric battery production.
“Earlier this year we published our Critical Minerals Refresh to improve supply chain resilience, and we are supporting several lithium extraction and refining opportunities to make sure the UK automotive sector is well set for the future."
The two companies are already working on a commercial-scale processing plant to allow Northern Lithium to deliver full-scale battery-grade lithium production at its first County Durham site, whilst expanding exploratory drilling activities at other locations across the Northern Pennine Orefield.