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CleanTech signs MOU with KMX Technologies to make lithium production more sustainable


London-listed sustainable lithium explorer CleanTech Lithium [LON:CTL] has signed a non-binding Memorandum of Understanding with KMX Technologies, a company leading in the field of water recovery during lithium extraction, to establish a commercial framework to use KMX’s technology at CleanTech’s two lithium projects in Chile.

The MOU lines up with CleanTech’s strategy to produce commercial quantities of battery grade lithium with near zero carbon emissions and low environmental impact. The company plans to have the production in place in the next two years and to be ready to provide the European Union electric vehicle market with a green lithium supply by the second quarter of 2024.

How it works:

Lithium naturally occurs in low concentrations in lithium brines, which apart from the metal also contain other impurities. The extraction process consists of first removing impurities from the brine and then separating the lithium from the water. This is typically a water hungry process, which, if not done carefully, is environmentally damaging as it wastes huge quantities of water. However, a small group of companies like KMX Technologies, which is a market leader in vacuum membrane distillation, are using a different process to address precisely this problem.

For the first stages of processing the brine pumped from sub-surface aquifers, CleanTech Lithium plans to utilise DLE, an environmentally green process, which replaces evaporation ponds in conventional lithium brine operations.  Once DLE has been applied, the lithium in the brine is concentrated to up to 10% lithium. Further concentration to battery grade lithium is required and the conventional method, which CleanTech Lithium will also be trialling, relies on large evaporator and crystalliser units. KMX´s membrane distillation technology has the potential to replace these units in a single stage process with significantly lower energy usage, and by using a membrane instead of an evaporator, water recovery is much higher.

There is currently a huge amount of investment flowing into renewable energy technologies, and as part of it, production of battery-grade lithium used for electric cars. But investors are increasingly interested in the production being sustainable and environmentally and socially responsible.

CleanTech Lithium is looking to use KMX’s proprietary technology to increase water recovery and cut the energy intensity of the lithium production at its Laguna Verde and Francisco Basin projects. Both projects are located in South America’s lithium triangle, the world’s centre for battery grade lithium production. They are situated within basins entirely controlled by the company and have direct access to good infrastructure and renewable power.

CleanTech Lithium’s chief executive Aldo Boitano said: “This MOU is another important step in our mission to produce sustainable battery grade lithium for the EV industry with the lowest environmental impact and CO2 footprint. By utilising a best-in-class technology which concentrates lithium in a single stage process with higher water recovery and lower energy usage and compliments our commitment to use 100% renewable energy and Direct Lithium Extraction process, we believe, once in production, we will be one of the greenest lithium producers globally.”

The company is currently completing laboratory scale direct lithium extraction work that aims to produce 1kg of battery grade lithium from the Laguna Verde project and expects this to be completed by the end of April. Work on a pilot plant is expected to start shortly after that.

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This article does not constitute investment advice. Do your own research or consult a professional advisor.

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