Lithium, the soft, silvery-white metal that makes rechargeable batteries for phones, laptops and electric vehicles possible, is widely considered to be one of the most important elements to the future success of renewable energy initiatives.
Watch this video to learn how MGX technology is being used to rapidly concentrate and extract lithium and other elements from over 83 percent of the lithium in oilfield brine.
Increasing Use of Lithium
Consumption of lithium has risen dramatically over the past few decades. Because this trend is projected to continue, we need new and more geographically diverse lithium sources. In 2009, for example, the lithium ion battery industry accounted for 21 percent of all annual lithium consumption(1). A mere decade later that figure has nearly doubled. Additionally, battery production for electric automobiles is only expected to increase, demanding a growing share of the valuable metal.
A single electric vehicle, for example, requires as much lithium as 10,000 mobile phones, and global electric vehicle sales will essentially double in 2021, then double again by 2025. In other words, expanding access to lithium must remain a priority.
What is Lithium Mining?
Lithium mining is the extraction of the lithium metal from naturally-occurring and industrial brines as well as hard rock mineral sources including pegmatite and spodumene. The bulk of lithium supplies have historically come from the “lithium triangle” in South America – Chile, Argentina and Bolivia – using the process of solar evaporation, and more recently, Australia, which produces most of its lithium through hard rock mining. Both conventional hard rock mining and solar evaporation can take between four and five years to bring a site online. On top of that, it takes up top two years, along with massive amounts of fresh water, to extract usable lithium using solar evaporation.
Historically, the most productive sources of lithium brine for solar evaporation are briny lakes, also known as salars (the word for ‘salt flats’ in Spanish), which have the world’s highest concentration of lithium on average - ranging from 1,000 to 3,000 parts per million. These salars are not the only brines where lithium can be found, but the technology did not previously exist to make extracting from nontraditional brines such as oil and gas wastewater – known as “petroleum brine” – and geothermal pools, economically viable until recent advances by companies like MGX Minerals.
Innovation in Lithium Mining
MGX Minerals has developed and is leveraging innovative technology to rapidly extract lithium from conventional and unconventional brine sources to supply the new energy economy. With this new approach, MGX eliminates or significantly reduces the physical footprint and capital investment required to construct and operate large, multi-phase, lake-sized, evaporation ponds. Additionally, it enhances the quality of extraction and recovery across a complex range of brines as compared with solar evaporation. This technology is applicable to petrolithium (oil and gas wastewater), natural brine, and other brine sources such as lithium-rich mine and industrial plant wastewater.