Wastewater treatment company Fluence Corporation (ASX: FLC) is venturing to support the lithium industry with the intention of decontaminating some of the most toxic processes used by lithium carbonate manufacturers.
Earlier today, the company announced a contract worth more than $3 million with an as-yet-unnamed battery-grade lithium carbonate manufacturer located in Argentina, to which it will provide a lithium brine treatment solution.
The project is expected to be completed before the end of 2020 with Fluence already confident it can pick up additional clientele in the region.
The project will utilise Fluence’s ion exchange technology to remove naturally occurring contaminants from lithium brine, “resulting in the highest product quality for the customer,” according to Fluence managing director and chief executive officer Henry Charrabé.
“Fluence engineers were able to offer the client a custom engineered solution that maximises the removal of contaminants while minimising the removal of valuable lithium that will be used to create the final product,” he said.
Lithium demand to continue growing
The lithium industry is currently undergoing a significant expansion as a result of a larger trend of moving towards lithium-ion batteries for energy storage.
Countries that have taken up the lithium development first and foremost have been South American countries such as Chile and Argentina, but also, China and Australia.
By 2025, the lithium-ion battery value chain is expected to top $2 trillion as increasingly more people procure battery-powered electronics such as phones, laptops and electric cars – products that require millions of tonnes of mined and processed lithium.
As part of a global rush to supply the lithium-powered electric-car revolution, battery makers such as Panasonic, Tesla and LG have turned to Argentina for their lithium chemicals.
Argentina’s high-altitude salt flats have become a hotspot of global lithium supply given the vast deposits and an investor-friendly government that is actively attracting foreign investors and developers.
Fluence market opportunity
Fluence provides decentralised water and wastewater treatment solutions including its proprietary Aspiral, NIROBOX and SUBRE products.
The company offers an integrated range of services across the complete water cycle, from early-stage evaluation, through design and delivery to ongoing support and optimisation of water-related assets.
Considering the convergence of growing lithium production and increased water processing requirements, Argentina represents fertile territory for Fluence to sell its water and wastewater decontaminant technology given that industrial lithium carbonate production is toxic and can create negative environmental impacts.
One of the side effects of lithium mining is water pollution and the consequential pollutive effects on water supplies. Moreover, there is an existential threat of chemical leakage which is a major concern for the entire lithium supply chain including miners and processors.
Argentina has some of the most significant lithium brine resources globally and this will be Fluence’s fourth lithium project there in just the past two years.
“We expect our execution of this project will lead to future business opportunities in the lithium industry,” said Mr Charrabé.
In order to progress its multifaceted approach to expanding its client base, Fluence completed a $36 million capital raising just last week. The company placed 81.8 million of its ordinary shares to sophisticated and professional institutional investors at an issue price of $0.44 per share with the money already earmarked for increasing assembly capacity and working capital to drive future growth.
Fluence currently has three significant partnerships announced in China for its proprietary membrane aerated biofilm reactor (MABR) products.
According to Fluence, this constitutes its most revolutionary and novel wastewater treatment technology that can slash energy costs for aeration by up to 90%.
In a statement to the market, Fluence said that it sees the water and wastewater treatment markets as having “reached an inflection point” of accepting its decentralised solutions and that now is the right time to capitalise on this momentum by “fortifying the balance sheet and accelerating execution of the strategic vision”.
News of a further lithium processing contract in Argentina helped Fluence shares to increase 1.12% to $0.45 in early morning trade.