Schlumberger delves into lithium mining
New Energy division unveils direct extraction pilot in Nevada Metal Tech News – March 18, 2021
Last updated 3/30/2021 at 5:57pm
Best known for delivering technological solutions to the oil and gas sectors for more than 100 years, Schlumberger has formed Schlumberger New Energy, a new division focused on low-carbon and carbon-neutral energy technologies.
One of Schlumberger New Energy's first projects in the United States is the development of a pilot plant to extract lithium from brine in Nevada.
Unlike the evaporation process traditionally used to extract lithium from brines in South America, the pilot plant developed by NeoLith Energy, a Schlumberger New Energy venture, will use a differentiated direct lithium extraction process.
Schlumberger New Energy, which has already invested more than US$15 million in direct lithium extraction, believes this cutting-edge technology could result in a sustainable process for producing high-purity, battery-grade lithium material at a much faster rate than the months of waiting for the sun to evaporate the water off a lithium-rich brine.
This innovative process has the potential to be a game-changer that creates new market opportunities for the lithium extraction and battery manufacturing sectors and maximizes the value of the lithium-rich resource base in Nevada.
"Nevada lithium resources present an excellent opportunity to demonstrate a leap in production efficiency with a more sustainable approach," said Schlumberger New Energy Executive Vice President Ashok Belani.
The lithium brine business, which involves drilling wells to extract the brine, is a perfect fit for leveraging Schlumberger's century of experience in oil and gas drilling, and reservoir management.
"Schlumberger's expertise in the subsurface domain, development of process technology, and global deployment of technology at scale with various partners all play an important role in the innovation and efficiency of our DLE (direct lithium extraction) process," Belani added. "We are accelerating the deployment of our pilot plant in response to the high market demand for battery-grade lithium material."
This demand will be driven by the exponential growth in the electric vehicle market.
Benchmark Mineral Intelligence forecasts EV sales to climb from roughly 3 million fully electric and hybrid cars sold in 2020 to 12 million units per year by 2025, before rocketing to 30 million by 2030 and 82 million by 2040. At this projected rate, EVs would overtake internal combustion vehicles by 2035.
As the majority of these EVs use lithium-ion and lithium-metal rechargeable batteries, sustainable and efficient lithium production has become an important topic for battery and large automotive manufacturers.
NeoLith Energy's pilot plant will provide vital information that will be applied to optimizing a full-scale, commercial lithium production facility in Nevada.
Schlumberger New Energy says the commercial plant will utilize an environmentally friendly method for subsurface brine extraction and lithium production that requires a significantly smaller footprint and reduces water consumption by over 85% compared to the evaporation methods currently used for extracting lithium from brine.
The company expects to invest another US$15 million in the development and operation of the pilot plant in Nevada, which NeoLith Energy intends to put into operation before the end of the year.