Metso: Production of battery-grade lithium hydroxide accelerates sustainability

by David Fleschen

To cater for the rapidly increasing demand for battery-grade lithium required for the energy transition, Metso has reviewed its lithium hydroxide technology and service offering. As part of this comprehensive review, Metso’s proprietary, sulphate-free alkaline pressure leach process has been validated as a Planet Positive technology for the production of battery-grade lithium.

Metso’s hydrometallurgical alkaline leach process is a simple and safe way to refine spodumene concentrate to battery-grade end products like lithium hydroxide monohydrate and lithium carbonate. The innovative refining process produces high-purity lithium salts and hydrates, which are needed for the cathodes of lithium-ion batteries used in electric vehicles.

In the process, lithium is extracted with high yield. Inert and neutral mineral residue is minimized and ready to be reused or disposed of, thus minimizing pollution to air, water, and soil. No additional impurity removal or precipitation stages are needed. In recent studies, the alkaline leach process has also shown reduced environmental impact compared to other technologies. Based on the Life Cycle Impact Assessment (LCIA), the process can  provide up to 40-60% reduction in water consumption, as well reduction in the acidification and eutrophication impact. The compact process also minimizes plant footprint and embedded carbon.

Metso has been developing sustainable alkaline leaching technologies for hard rock lithium sources for 20 years already. Today the offering includes comprehensive proprietary technologies for refining lithium from spodumene mineral concentrates. Intensive R&D and piloting is also ongoing in the processing of other lithium-bearing pegmatite hard rocks such as petalite, zinnwaldite and lepidolite. Metso has proven processes also for the extraction of lithium from brines.

“The urgent need to implement solutions and technologies limiting global warming is driving the development of lithium-ion batteries that are used, for example, in electric vehicles (EVs) and renewable energy storage ecosystems. This, and the regionalization of critical minerals sourcing has resulted in a surge in lithium projects. Currently, Metso is supporting several battery minerals projects that are in study, piloting, engineering or delivery phases,” explains Marika Tiihonen, Technology Manager for Lithium at Metso.

“As a strong and reliable partner for the development of lithium hydroxide and other battery minerals projects, Metso can deliver the whole production process – from mine to battery materials, and recycling of black mass – complemented with world-class service support,” says Tiihonen.

Source and Photo: Metso

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