DuPont Clean Technologies has been awarded a contract for the license, engineering and supply of equipment to a planned sulphuric acid plant at ioneer’s (ASX: INR) Rhyolite Ridge lithium-boron project in the US state of Nevada.
DuPont will work with its Canadian engineering partner SNC-Lavalin on the design of the 3,500 tonnes-per-day capacity plant, providing its proprietary MECS sulphuric acid production technology to ensure ultra-low emissions by world standards.
The technology was developed by US-based chemicals firm MECs Inc prior to DuPont acquiring the company as a subsidiary in 2010.
It produces marketable sulphuric acid using a sulphur by-product from chemical processes which would otherwise be released into the atmosphere.
DuPont’s contract with ioneer is conditional on Rhyolite Ridge receiving final investment decision from ioneer’s board of directors.
ioneer managing director Bernard Rowe said the DuPont contract will enhance the environment-friendly nature of the company’s flagship project.
“Our core commitment is to produce essential materials in an environmentally and socially responsible and sustainable manner through lowered emissions, reduced water usage and a minimal surface footprint,” he said.
“We are delighted to welcome DuPont [as] a world-leader in clean technology and emissions control to help deliver this tier one project in the US.”
Employing advanced technologies, the Rhyolite Ridge plant will be built to meet Nevada’s stringent Class II air quality and water pollution control standards.
In June, ioneer received a Class II permit from the state’s Bureau of Air Pollution Control, ticking a box required for the commencement of project construction in late 2024.
DuPont will supply ioneer with its latest generation MECS Super GEAR catalyst and other critical proprietary equipment to convert sulphur into commercial-grade sulphuric acid, which will be used to leach lithium and boron from crushed rock.
Heat released during the process will be recovered to produce steam for the 35 megawatts of electricity required to power the entire Rhyolite Ridge operation.
Successful generation of the electricity means ioneer will not have to rely on the grid for its power needs.
The heat will also be used for evaporation and crystallisation processes required to produce lithium carbonate and boric acid.
When complete, Rhyolite Ridge will be an energy-independent operation, using primarily co-generated, zero-carbon power.
It is expected to produce 20,600 tonnes per annum of lithium carbonate, converting in the fourth year of operation to 22,000tpa of battery-grade lithium hydroxide and 174,400tpa of boric acid.