Irish offshore firm Clontarf Energy plans to form a joint venture to use new lithium extraction technology with Next-ChemX (NCX).

The firm will partner to use NCX’s brine processing technology for lithium extraction at its Bolivia lithium sites. NCX hopes its ion-targeting direct extraction (ITDE) system will prove faster than evaporation pools, which can take months to work. Instead, ITDE utilises high surface area modified membranes to conduct ionic exchange and extract lithium quickly and efficiently.

The relatively low-energy process does not require heat, pressure, electrolysis, or fresh water. Furthermore, as the lithium brine does not come into contact with the extraction solution, the brine may be returned to the earth. This could go some way towards combatting the harmful effects of excessive mine water use on local biomes. As the process is continuous, and does not rely on batch production unlike evaporation pools, it may increase overall productivity.  

Clontarf chairman David Horgan said: “Our team has been working with various licence-holders and regulatory bodies to provide sufficient volumes of priority brines for laboratory test-work. Once these tests have yielded adequate results, we expect to move to pilot plant volumes. This work should enable confirmation of the commerciality of the Next-ChemX DLE process and move to the application of the technology across a number of lithium brine projects.”

As ITDE can apply to multiple valuable minerals such as magnesium and copper, NCX aims to develop other extraction techniques . The process can also separate unwanted esters such as glycerides from biofuels, for example biodiesel, to create purer fuels.

The joint venture will commence with the trading of shares between the two companies, after Clontarf paid NCX $500,000 in order to satisfy all the joint venture conditions.

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