Oilfield services firm Schlumberger‘s New Energy division is planning to develop a lithium extraction pilot plant in Nevada, US.
As part of an agreement signed with Canada-based Pure Energy Minerals, Schlumberger New Energy Venture has launched a new venture called NeoLith Energy to develop the facility in Clayton Valley.
The plant will trial Schlumberger New Energy’s new direct lithium extraction (DLE) technique which is developed to produce high-purity, battery-grade material while maximising the lithium resource recovery.
Schlumberger said that the sustainable DLE process could disrupt the lithium economy by opening new opportunities to existing production regions.
The DLE technology enables subsurface brine extraction and lithium production while requiring a “significantly smaller footprint”. It is also expected to reduce water consumption by more than 85% compared to current techniques, the firm noted.
Schlumberger New Energy has invested over $15m in the DLE process and anticipates the Nevada facility’s development to entail similar investment.
The latest move comes amid a surging demand for battery-grade lithium due to growth in the electric vehicle (EV) market.
Schlumberger New Energy executive vice-president Ashok Belani said: “Nevada lithium resources present an excellent opportunity to demonstrate a leap in production efficiency with a more sustainable approach.
“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 process.
“We are accelerating the deployment of our pilot plant in response to the high market demand for battery-grade lithium material.”
NeoLith Energy plans to commission the pilot plant before the end of 2021, subject to receipt of all necessary permits.