A$2.5m to fund pilot for greener lithium extraction

Article by Amanda Jasi

NOVALITH Technologies has raised A$2.5m (US$3.4m) of seed funding that will finance build-out and operation of a pilot plant in Sydney, Australia, helping to move the company’s environmentally friendly lithium extraction technology towards commercial demonstration.

Lithium is a key component in rechargeable batteries, used to electrify transport and decarbonise the energy market. According to a 2021 report by professional services company Accenture, global battery uptake is expected to grow from 263 GWh/y in 2020 to up to 2,600 GWh/y by 2030.

Steven Vassiloudis, Novalith CEO and Founder, said: “The future of lithium mining and refining will require the elimination of carbon-intensive energy sources, and ideally turn carbon waste into carbon value. This is what we are working towards.”

Novalith’s low-cost LiCAL technology uses CO2 to directly extract lithium and produce high-quality, battery-grade lithium chemicals, reducing emissions. It also eliminates the need for strong acids and other harmful chemicals for extraction, preventing the formation of harmful byproducts or environmentally damaging waste. The technology recycles water, reducing water consumption by more than 90%.

The technology removes the need for extensive offshore processing and allows plants to be co-located near lithium sources, reducing transport costs and associated emissions. It also uses less equipment and doesn’t require the use of auxiliary plants, such as for sulfuric acid production, and requires significantly less area for the same lithium chemicals production capacity.

Clean Energy Finance Corporation (CEFC) supplied A$1.5m of the funding through the Clean Energy Innovation Fund, created to invest A$200m in early-stage clean technology companies. CEFC is an Australian clean energy investor. Novalith also received funding from venture capital vehicle Neglected Climate Opportunities, a subsidiary of the Jeremy and Hannelore Grantham Environmental Trust.

Ian Learmonth, CEFC CEO, said: “The Novalith technology has the potential to change the nature of lithium production, offering an exciting opportunity for Australia to become a major processing, manufacturing, and trading hub for lithium resources.

“As the largest lithium miner in the world, it is vital that we secure critical mineral supply chains to develop sovereign capability for the industry and to be more competitive globally. By investing in this ground-breaking Novalith technology, we are backing the development of a competitive sustainable business of the future.”

According to Accenture’s 2021 report, more than 50% of the world’s lithium is extracted in Australia. It says if the nation builds on its mining strength to develop a diversified battery industry, with more onshore processing, it could increase industry value-added to A$7.4bn/y in 2030, supporting around 34,700 jobs.

Article by Amanda Jasi

Staff Reporter, The Chemical Engineer

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