Standard Lithium Explains Its Direct Lithium Extraction Process

By Johnna Crider

Standard Lithium, which is located near the Arkansas/Louisiana border, has shared a narrated tour of its LiSTR Direct Lithium Extraction (DLE) plant. Project engineer Will Smith gave a guided tour on YouTube explaining how the company built an operational, industrial-scale demonstration plant.

The plant is located at the Lanxess south bromine facility near El Dorado, Arkansas. It was commissioned in May 2020 and is now online 24/7. It’s fully automated with 700 monitoring stations that provide data every 1/2 second. The plant is being used to provide design and engineering criteria for a larger commercial direct lithium extraction facility.

Standard Lithium noted on its website that its south Arkansas project is “the largest and most advanced lithium brine project in the U.S.” It has a 3.94 million tonne lithium carbonate equivalent resource and is on a 175,000-acre site. The Lanxess Project is in the Smackover brine region and the company noted that the state of Arkansas produces around 9.4 billion gallons of brine annually. That information was shared by the Arkansas Oil & Gas Commission.

Standard Lithium noted that its patent-pending direct lithium extraction process, known as LiSTR, could not only reduce the recovery time of extracting lithium from brine from a year to just several hours, but could be much more environmentally friendly with a much smaller footprint compared to the conventional evaporation pond processes.

In the video, Smith briefly shared how the company gets its lithium.

“The Lanxess facility here has been producing bromine for over 50 years using brine and then pumping it back in the ground. We’ve since been able to tap into that. We bring it up to our facility to extract the lithium and then we send it back for redisposal into the aquifer.”

After a quick stop at the control room, Smith explained in detail how the company gets and processes the lithium.

“Lithium-rich tail brine enters our facility from Lanxess, goes through a filtering process where we filter out any inorganics. Then it moves into the heart of our process.

“The now-filtered brine moves into the loading stage at about 160 degrees Fahrenheit.It’s mixed with our absorbent for about 10 minutes.”

In the next step, the brine leaves the loading reactors and moves into the disposal process. The lithium-loaded absorbent goes on to the washing stage.

“Our now loaded absorbent moves into a three-stage washing process. Here, we remove any excess brine that may have been left behind. The slurry is also thickened up to prepare for the stripping process. So now, we’re about an hour into our process. We filtered the brine, we loaded it in the loading reactor with our absorbent and we washed the absorbent off. Now it’s time for stripping.”

Smith explained that in the stripping reactor, a dilute hydrochloric acid is added which produces a lithium-chloride solution that is ready for polishing. This is the final polishing stage. Next, he showed a large white tank that contains an ultra-pure lithium-chloride solution from the lithium found in South Arkansas.

The next part is to test the solution to see the results.

“With our plant running 24/7, we have an on-site lab to support the production. We’re able to test not only our product that’s in process but our final product. Normal processes take months to produce a quality grade lithium-chloride solution ready for lithium carbonate production but we were able to do it in a matter of about six hours.”

Bigger Picture, What Is Direct Lithium Extraction?

DLE is a way of extracting lithium by selectively removing the lithium compounds from geothermal waters. Cornish Lithium noted that this is the most environmentally responsible method of extracting lithium from solution.

International Battery Metals, which has a Generation 3 system that uses a selective absorbent and has a focus on renewable energy, shares some information about DLE on its website. The company says that its selection absorption technology eliminates solar evaporation ponds, salt piles, and lime plants. It rejects critical impurities like calcium, sulfate, and other minerals while providing water control and recovery tech that recycles more than 98% of the plant’s process water.

The European Commission noted in a study that when the lithium-depleted brine from the LDE process is returned back to the natural environment, the impact on the hydric balance is significantly reduced. That particular study was looking at the development of innovative and sustainable lithium extraction processes from medium lithium grade brines.

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Does this 175,000 acres extend into Union Parish, or is it just in Arkansas?  Do the landowners own the brine underlaying their land, or is the brine "severed" from the surface?  Considering the value of Lithium, I hope someone is making royalty off of this.

Most of the leases or buy outs that have crossed my desk have been for Arkansas.  The last one was a buy out offer for royalty under a 1976 lease.  The brine industry has been around for a long time in that part of AR.  Wikipedia excerpt:

"Bromine production in the United States of 225,000 tonnes in 2013 made that country the second-largest producer of bromine, after Israel. The US supplied 29 percent of world production. Since 2007, all US bromine has been produced by two companies in southern Arkansas, which extract bromine from brine pumped from the Smackover Formation. At an advertised price of US$3.50 to US$3.90 per kg, the US 2013 US production would have a value of roughly US$800 million.

The two active bromine producers are Albemarle Corporation and Chemtura, whose bromine operations together employ 950 people. Albemarle Corporation, whose corporate headquarters is in Charlotte, North Carolina, operates two main plants at Magnolia, in Columbia County, Arkansas, and some satellite plants in Union County. In 2007, Albemarle had capacity to produce 148,000 tons of bromine per year.

Chemtura, a Philadelphia-based corporation, operates four plants through its subsidiary, Great Lakes Solutions. Three plants are in the vicinity of El Dorado, and all in Union County, Arkansas. In 2007, Chemtura had the capacity to produce 130,000 tonnes of bromine per year.

The new player is: Standard Lithium chose south Arkansas as a key development target due to its very large resource potential, with a well-studied and documented brine deposit. Combine this with a pro-business environment, a region with more than five decades for commercial brine production, the associated infrastructure; pipelines, well fields, low-cost power, road, rail and a highly skilled work force. This makes Standard Lithium’s south Arkansas project the perfect location for a modern lithium chemical company.

Standard Lithium has been the source of most of the media attention since it announced it's Lanxess Project.  No mention that I have found so far on Louisiana Brine leases.  Brine is a mineral and companies use standard form leases similar to O&G leases.

interesting, and thanks.  I guess this is where the lease term "and other minerals" comes in play.

I recall a posting on this blog, maybe by you, a year or two ago about this project and the lithium brine found in the Smackover formation.

I recall back in the 70's when the La. Legislature enacted a statute to make clear that the "and other minerals" did not include lignite which would be produced by surface mining.

Until there is interest in Louisiana brine wells, my concern will be for lack of specificity in lease language and a void in Louisiana Office of Conservation reporting regulations relating to natural gas liquids (NGL).  Standard form leases do not mention them and companies are not required to report volumes to the state as is required for oil and gas.  In all but a few rare cases, the Haynesville Shale does not produce NGLs.  It is very dry gas.  However there are plenty of Louisiana gas wells that do produce NGLs.  When we see a "gas" well that is reporting "oil", regularly or periodically, it is likely that the "oil" is condensate and wherever we see condensate, we should also think NGLs.  The state lumps all liquids under "oil" for reporting production volumes.


Although somewhat antiquated given the current state of processing, transport and sales of multiple upstream and midstream refined products, most oil and gas producing states still follow this formula and definition for "oil" and "gas", and taxes are assessed based on a definition of "oil" being petroleum products at industry standard measurement temperature and pressure (typically ±60ºF and ±14.7psi) in the liquid phase and "gas" being any other product produced in a vapor phase in the same environment.

NGLs are not in the liquid phase at this standard.  The heaviest NGL components (n-butane and isobutane) changes phase at normal pressure at around 40ºF.  While butanes and propane are easily liquified at pressure, this is simply not the field standard.  Typically, these products are not introduced at quantity in the sales and distribution gas stream as the pipeline companies restrict BTU content to no more than 1100MMBtu/mcf (and in many cases less), hence even ethane content tolerances can be severe.

Thanks for the detail, Dion.  :-)


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