Advancements towards Lithium Universe's lithium carbonate refinery

Company News

by Peter Milios

Lithium Universe (ASX:LU7) reported substantial advancements in the Engineering Study conducted by Hatch Ltd (Hatch) for the Quebec Lithium Processing Hub (QLPH) multi-purpose battery-grade lithium carbonate refinery.

The QLPH refinery, designed to produce 16,000 metric tons annually, is predicated on a spodumene feed grade of approximately 5.5% Li2O. Its primary objective is to generate lithium carbonate products with a minimum purity level of 99.5% and 99.9%, with a plant availability target of 84% and an overall lithium recovery rate goal of 85%. Additionally, the facility will produce anhydrous sodium sulfate for the textile industry and provide aluminasilicate residue to the cement industry.

The final design flow sheet details the operational process, beginning with front-end loader operations and belt conveyors transporting spodumene concentrate from the stockpile area to the calciner. In the calciner, the concentrate undergoes calcination at 1080°C in a direct-fired rotary kiln to convert alpha spodumene to leachable beta spodumene, with off-gases from the calcining kiln subject to treatment through a cyclone and an electrostatic precipitator to meet environmental emissions regulations.

Following calcination, the beta spodumene is mixed with concentrated sulfuric acid and roasted at 250°C in an indirectly heated kiln, with emissions from the sulfurating kiln managed through a wet scrubber. The sulfated spodumene is then cooled and processed in the leach circuit, where leached solids and precipitated impurities are thickened and filtered before proceeding to the lithium carbonate production area.

The lithium carbonate production area involves a process where the solution is heated and then reacts with a hot sodium carbonate solution in a single crystallizer operating at 95°C. Coarse crystals from the crystallizer are thickened before entering the centrifuge circuit. Raw lithium carbonate is further purified to battery-grade through the carbonation process, resulting in the formation of soluble lithium bicarbonate. The solution is filtered, and lithium carbonate is re-crystallized when injected with steam, while carbon dioxide gas is regenerated and recycled to the initial stages of the purification process.

Battery-grade lithium carbonate is centrifuged and dried in an indirect-fired kiln at 120°C, followed by air-milling to less than 6 µm in a micronizer before pneumatic conveyance to storage bins and bagging stations. Anhydrous sodium sulfate, a by-product, is produced through vacuum evaporative crystallization, dried, packaged, and sold to the textile industry.

The design closely resembles that of the Jiangsu Lithium Carbonate Plant, with added robustness to accommodate various spodumene concentrates from Canada and around the world.

In addition to the engineering advancements, a draft site layout has been developed to account for Canadian climate conditions and logistics for raw material delivery and product shipment.

Hatch has provided a Block Flow Diagram (BFD), Process Flow Diagrams (PFD), Mass Balance, and Process Design Criteria (PDC), all of which provide essential insights into mass flows and equipment requirements. The progress made thus far is significant.

Furthermore, Hatch has successfully completed a location study to determine the optimal site for the 16,000-ton-per-annum battery-grade lithium carbonate refinery. After evaluating over 20 potential locations and benchmarking against recent site location data, Lithium Universe has selected the Bécancour Industrial Park, situated between Quebec City and Montreal. Discussions with the Société du parc industriel et portuaire de Bécancour (SPIPB) have commenced.

Mr. Iggy Tan, Chairman of LU7, expressed his satisfaction with the engineering study's progress, stating, "The progress of the engineering study for the QLPH Lithium Refinery by Hatch has been excellent, setting the stage for the Definitive Feasibility Study (DFS). Considering our listing in early August this year, the pace and quality of work demonstrated by Hatch, guided by the Company's Lithium Dream Team, has been pleasing."

Lithium Universe Limited remains committed to its vision of contributing to the future of sustainable energy solutions through lithium production, and this recent progress marks a significant milestone in that journey. With the DFS on the horizon, the company is well on its way to becoming a key player in the global lithium market.

Peter Milios

Peter Milios is a recent graduate from the University of Technology - majoring in Finance and Accounting. Peter is currently working under equity research analyst Di Brookman for Corporate Connect Research.

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