Sustainable Battery-Grade Lithium

Technology-driven approach to a responsible supply ecosystem

Demand
Lithium is crucial to support the fast growth of the lithium ion battery industry for electric mobility.
Performance
Increase in energy density will require higher nickel content in cathode chemistries, translating to more demand for battery-grade lithium hydroxide.
Sustainability
Sustainability is a prerequisite, not an option, in extracting and processing lithium.
a close up of an electric vehicle's battery
Key advantages of Li-ion batteries include high energy density, high voltage capacity, and lower self-discharge rate, which makes for better power efficiency.

Backbone of electric transportation

Electrification is a key element in the transition to a low-carbon future. Electric transportation—notably electric vehicles (EVs)—is surging in popularity; in 2020, more than a million battery electric vehicles were sold worldwide, and that number is expected to approach 20 million by 2030.

In suit, the demand for rechargeable lithium ion (Li-ion) batteries is soaring. The growth in demand of rechargeable batteries since 2010 has caused product requirements to rapidly change. In 2027, demand will exceed 1 million tons of lithium carbonate equivalent (LCE).

Lithium market growth across borders

Because EVs greatly depend on Li-ion batteries, this industry is poised to continue its growth trajectory. Lithium supply security has become a top priority for governments, technology companies, battery manufacturers, and large automotive manufacturers, all wanting to secure the supply chain of this strategic resource. Strategic alliances and joint ventures continue to be established to ensure a reliable, diversified supply of lithium for battery suppliers and vehicle manufacturers. Gigafactories across multiple regions are becoming the norm.

World's quest for lithium

The largest producer of lithium from spodumene is Australia, and Chile is the largest producer of lithium from brine. Chile, Argentina, and Bolivia comprise the "lithium triangle," named for the region's vast lithium resources.

Lithium production in China hit 7,500 tonne in 2019. The country is the world's largest consumer of lithium.

The United States' only operating lithium mine is located in Clayton Valley, Nevada.

Read more about Schlumberger New Energy's work with Pure Energy in Clayton Valley here.

World map showing lithium mines in Australia, Chile, Argentina, Bolivia, and United States (Nevada).
The largest producer of lithium from brine is Chile, which together with Bolivia and Argentina constitutes what is the so-called “lithium triangle.”
closeup of the mineral lithium
Lithium is extracted from minerals in igneous rock and from chloride salts found in brine pools.

Lithology of lithium

Lithium is a highly reactive alkali metal that offers excellent heat and electrical conductivity. Its high reactivity means that pure lithium is never found in its elemental metallic form, but instead as a constituent of salts or other compounds. Lithium salts can be found in underground deposits of mineral ore, brine, and clay as well as in seawater and geothermal well brines and water.

Commercially, lithium is extracted from lithium minerals in igneous rocks (mainly spodumene) and from lithium chloride salts found in brine pools. Lithium brine deposits are accumulations of saline groundwater that are enriched in dissolved lithium (200–1,500 mg/L).

The methods of lithium extraction and processing vary depending on the source material:

  • hard rock or spodumene lithium extraction
  • conventional lithium brine extraction
  • other lithium extraction processes.

Our approach to sustainable battery-grade lithium

Focusing on the market’s growth potential, Schlumberger New Energy is taking a technology-driven approach that lets us explore new ways to produce and process high-purity lithium with the entire production ecosystem in mind. This approach enables a cost-effective, sustainable, on-demand response to the growing high-grade battery-lithium market.

As lithium helps the transition to a low-carbon economy, consumers are demanding the highest environmental standards and compliance—so sustainability in the supply chain is crucial.

Leveraging Schlumberger technology development, processing, and operational management, subsurface expertise, and strategic partnerships, we designed a sustainable direct lithium extraction (DLE) process to enable new production and supply ecosystem.

A long highway road leading through Nevada
Our path to sustainable, responsible lithium extraction includes direct extraction processes.

Our sustainable DLE process supports economic growth in existing lithium-producing regions—and expands access to new ones.

Lithium Production
Through an innovative, sustainable DLE process, NeoLith Energy can generate high-purity, battery-grade lithium material from a reduced environmental footprint.

Our venture in action—NeoLith Energy

NeoLith Energy, a Schlumberger New Energy venture, maximizes the value of mineral resources through an innovative, sustainable DLE process that outputs battery-grade lithium material. Preserving the environment while guaranteeing best-in-class economical lithium recovery and refinement is key to sustainable and responsible lithium production.

NeoLith Energy uses a continuous production process to selectively extract the lithium from the brine and then convert it into a high-purity, battery-grade material. The long lead time associated with evaporation is avoided, ensuring a quality end product from reduced environmental footprint. This DLE technology opens the door to a long-needed, more sustainable approach to lithium production, guaranteeing direct extraction with reduced environmental impact and increased economic value of the lithium resources.

Schlumberger New Energy Venture to Launch a Lithium Extraction Pilot Plant in Nevada
NeoLith Energy’s differentiated direct lithium extraction process aims to enable a sustainable, efficient, and flexible lithium production ecosystem.
Read the press release
Clayton Valley, Nevada
Clayton Valley, Nevada, is a lithium-rich region of the United States and the site of NeoLith Energy’s first mobile pilot plant for direct lithium extraction.

The NeoLith Energy Pilot Plant

NeoLith Energy’s first mobile pilot plant will be installed in Clayton Valley, Nevada. This is the first DLE plant in this lithium-production region. It will explore the potential of a closed-loop battery-grade lithium ecosystem of supply and demand in Nevada. This represents a new era for the most prominent lithium-production region in the United States—a sustainable, on-demand, high-grade battery-lithium supply to support regional economic growth by sourcing, producing, processing, and distributing high-grade lithium to the rest of the country. The NeoLith Energy technology has been successfully tested on the Clayton Valley brine resource.

Schlumberger New Energy and Panasonic Energy of North America Announce Strategic Collaboration on New Battery-Grade Lithium Production Process
The collaboration aims to validate and optimize the efficient lithium production process recently announced by Schlumberger New Energy, to support rapid growth of the EV market.
Read the Press Release
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