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Potential Applications of Lithium Extraction Technologies for Williston Basin Brines

  • 2019 Technical Conference Program
  • May 29, 2019
  • 10:00 am - 10:30 am

WBPC 2019 Abstract #27

The demand for lightweight, rechargeable lithium batteries has increased greatly as markets grow for mobile devices, battery powered vehicles and renewable power storage. Recent studies have shown that the demand for lithium is projected to increase by 73 per cent by 2025, as electric vehicles become more viable and more countries place restrictions on gas- and diesel-powered cars. The challenge of keeping up with fast-rising market demand has led to interest in the potential of extracting lithium from brines in Western Canada, including the Williston Basin.

There are typically two sources of lithium. One is from mineral deposits (e.g., petalite, spodumene, lepidolite) or clays (e.g., smectite, illite, pegmatite). Australia is currently the largest producer of lithium for these types of mineral deposits. The other source is from brine deposits, such as salt lake brines, produced waters and saline groundwater. The lithium triangle in South America has the highest concentrations of these brines from salt lakes, while Alberta and Saskatchewan have lithium in much lower concentrations in produced waters. Traditional processing methods for these brines are currently not viable for the lower concentration of the Canadian brines.

The Saskatchewan Research Council (SRC) has been working with mining companies and engineering companies from Canada, USA, Australia, Argentina and Chile to develop lithium processes from various sources to produce battery-grade lithium carbonate and lithium hydroxide, as well as other byproducts. SRC has also initiated research on a new selective recovery technology which would be a potential processing solution for the low concentration brines if successful.

This presentation will show and discuss the various lithium extraction technologies for mineral deposits and brines, as well as the newer research areas for the new selective lithium recovery technologies, such as precipitation and the recently developed membrane electrolysis, nanofiltration, selective ion sieving, and co-precipitation.