Lithium Carbonate Refinery

Lithium Universe Limited has appointed Hatch Ltd to undertake an engineering study for the design of a multi-purpose battery-grade lithium carbonate refinery, which will form part of the Company Québec Lithium Processing Hub (QLPH) strategy. The Company is aiming to establish a major vertically integrated mine to battery grade lithium carbonate processing hub in Québec.

Hatch is a renowned global engineering company, boasting a vast network of over 15,000 professionals and operating in more than 150 countries worldwide. With its origins in Canada, Hatch has extensive experience in successfully delivering lithium-based projects in Québec and globally.

Hatch has more than 70 years of project delivery experience in Québec and has pioneered the use of modular construction in the region. Furthermore, Hatch was the engineering company responsible for the design and delivery of the 17,000 tpa Jiangsu Lithium Carbonate Plant, operated by Galaxy Resources Limited. Upon completion and commissioning, the plant became the world’s largest lithium refinery of its kind.

The Engineering Study will be aimed to define the process and non-process infrastructure requirements for a 16,000 tpa lithium carbonate refinery, as well as the definitive estimated capital and operating costs. The design will include the use of conventional kiln conversion of spodumene, sulphuric acid sulphation and leaching, impurity removal and final purification to battery-grade quality lithium carbonate, similar to that of the Jiangsu Lithium Carbonate Plant. Lithium Universe has brought together a strong team of lithium experts to assist in the execution of this strategy, noting that Mr Iggy Tan and Dr Jingyuan Liu previously worked with Hatch on the design, construction and commissioning of the Jiangsu Lithium Carbonate Plant.

The first part of the Engineering Study, to determine the ideal location of the lithium refinery is now complete and Lithium Universe has secured prime industrial property in the Bécancour Waterfront Industrial Park. This location is close to hydroelectricity, gas, road, rail infrastructure and spodumene import facilities.

Hatch has assigned a study team of industry-recognized experts, from its Brisbane, Perth, and Montreal offices to undertake the next stages of the study, including geotechnical, environmental and civil works. They will report to Dr. Jingyuan Liu, a recognised lithium expert in the global lithium industry, and Mr. John Loxton, Head of Lithium Refinery.

The finalized design flow sheet (See below) illustrates how the front-end loader operation and belt conveyors feed spodumene concentrate from the stockpile area to the calciner. The concentrate is calcined at 1080°C in a direct fired rotary kiln to convert the alpha spodumene to the leachable beta spodumene. The calcining kiln off-gases will pass through a cyclone and an electrostatic precipitator to comply with environmental emissions limits. The hot calcine is indirectly cooled and dry-milled to less than 300 µm. After storage in a surge bin, the beta spodumene is mixed with concentrated sulphuric acid and roasted at 250°C in an indirectly heated kiln. The sulphating kiln off-gases will be cleaned in a wet scrubber to meet site environmental emissions limits. The sulphated spodumene is cooled and fed to the leach circuit. The combined leached solids and precipitated impurities are thickened prior to being filtered in a belt filter. The filtrate is combined with the thickener overflow and passed through a polishing sand filter and an ion exchange column to remove residual calcium, magnesium and other multivalent cations before the lithium carbonate area.

The solution entering the lithium carbonate production area is heated and then reacted with a hot sodium carbonate solution in a single crystalliser operating at 95°C. The coarse crystals from the crystalliser are thickened before passing to the centrifuge circuit. Raw lithium carbonate is further purified to battery grade using the carbonation process. After slurried in demin water, soluble lithium bi-carbonate is formed from the bubbling of carbon dioxide gas. The solution is filtered, and lithium carbonate is re-crystalised when the solution is heated using injected steam. Carbon dioxide gas is re-generated which is recycled to the front end of the purification process. Battery-grade lithium carbonate is centrifuged and dried in an indirect-fired kiln at 120°C. The dry coarse lithium carbonate is air milled to less than 6 µm in a microniser and then pneumatically conveyed to the storage bins and bagging stations. Sodium sulphate is produced as a by-product from the vacuum evaporative crystallisation of the morther liquor. A bi-product, sodium sulphate, is used in the textile industry. The design closely resembles that of the Jiangsu Lithium Carbonate Plant but is more robust and capable of processing various types of concentrate from Canada and around the world.



QLPH Lithium Refinery – Process Flow Diagram

The company has developed a draft overall site layout to account for Canadian climate conditions, and defines roads required for delivery of raw materials and shipment of products and co-products. See below.

QLPH Lithium Refinery – Draft Layout


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