Creating a steady-state simulation model to recover lithium from waste material
Lithium – a critical mineral in high demand
Globally, demand for lithium is growing at an exponential rate. Its use in batteries for the electric vehicle market – predicted to grow 10-fold by 2025 and at least 50-fold by 2030 – is a key factor for this increase, as is the growing demand for energy storage solutions. Current world lithium production (on a carbonate basis) is approximately 500,000 tonnes per annum. By 2025, the electric vehicle market alone is expected to consume 2.7 million tonnes per year, and potentially 15 million tonnes per year by 2030.
With lithium such a valuable, in-demand and finite resource, it’s vital that minerals-processing plants optimise their processes to ensure maximum recovery. Needing to evaluate its process to reduce the amount of lithium being lost to its waste stream, one plant approached Elemental Engineering’s expert team to help to maximise lithium recovery.
The Elemental Engineering team worked closely with the plant’s stakeholders to understand their specific requirements and limitations and provide an in-depth and workable optimisation strategy.
The strategy included development of a steady-state model for the plant and advice on the optimum ways to recover high quantities of lithium from a waste stream prior to disposal, while being most cost-efficient.
For the lithium production process, the Elemental Engineering team devised a reagent-efficient, novel two-stage purification process.
Using process modelling software, the team developed a complex steady-state plant model they used to simulate the plant flowsheet.
Elemental Engineering’s experience in battery metal hydrometallurgical plants meant that the model developed was accurate and fully represented the plant flowsheet, including the modelling and calculations of all chemical reactions and reagent consumption.
The team also conducted an energy balance to understand cooling requirements for all reactors as well as steam generation demand for evaporators, heat exchangers and other plant equipment.
Elemental Engineering was able to provide the resulting simulation data on all plant streams and equipment at a desired throughput, including expected product recoveries, reagent and utilities consumption, and heating and cooling requirements.
With in-depth experience in battery metal production, Elemental Engineering was also able to make recommendations on reagent recovery systems to further reduce reagent costs, and hence operating costs.
The proposed process now optimises efficiencies while reducing operating costs, leading to improved profits and more sustainable production of a finite and in-demand resource.
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