Executive at NYC-based supply chain consultant
- Traditional lithium extraction methods – brine vs hard rock
- DLE (direct lithium extraction) overview, including major players, variety of new capabilities and key differences compared to traditional methods
- CAPEX, production capacity growth of DLE plants and large-scale commercial application timelines
- Lithium supply and demand outlook – pricing dynamics, impact of EV (electric vehicle) penetration and implications for auto OEMs (original equipment manufacturers)
Where does most of the world’s lithium come from today?
We read a lot about batteries and EVs [electric vehicles], but what industries are using lithium today and what’s your outlook there?
What do you think are the 2-3 most important trends in lithium today?
Could you outline how most lithium is produced today? You mentioned brine and hard rock.
How long would it take to develop a new brine project and at what point do you work out the nuances where, as you said, no two brines are exactly the same? You said a brine project takes 12-18 months of chemical treatment to produce the product or its precursor.
How much useable material is being captured through the two traditional methods – brine and hard rock?
Who is attempting to increase the brines’ recovery rates? Does a chemical formulation do that or are there other ways to increase the recovery factor?
What does DLE [direct lithium extraction] propose to do and how does it work?
How does one get rid of the evaporation ponds?
What did you mean when you mentioned low-quality lithium in China? Does it yield less product or does more processing need to occur? What causes the lower quality and can it be overcome?
What other mining segments have used ion exchanges successfully? What materials would be used and how might this scale?
We’ve seen fairly material increases to Albermarle and Livent’s CAPEX in 2022. Is any of that going to more rapid-development DLE? Or is it driven more by cost inflation and every other project going up in price?
You said the OPEX for a brine project would be around USD 3,600 or USD 3,700 per tonne. If a DLE project came to fruition and you could get 4x the yield out of a pond, would we divide that number by four? What are you thinking in terms of OPEX and CAPEX on what a DLE project could look like?
What is the largest DLE project to date? What quantities are we talking about?
Is it conceivable that China could be a meaningful supply source, given the development of Contemporary Amperex and Gotion? The number being thrown about was 250,000 tonnes on an LCE [lithium carbonate equivalent] basis by 2025. What are your thoughts there?
Do you think DLE will be successful, based on your experience?
What about a DLE facility’s carbon footprint? Would it be additive? I know there are risks with having a pond, accidents occurring and so on now that you’re dealing with chemicals. How does that shake out in terms of ESG?
What do you think is the risk of high lithium prices slowing demand for batteries or even encouraging the use of other materials?
What risks do you see ahead for lithium specifically? You mentioned the earnings calls from Albemarle and Livent last week and the outlooks were raised.
What key things should we monitor for the lithium industry in 2022?
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