Lepidico (ASX: LPD) has successfully produced high purity lithium hydroxide using a process which avoids the production of sodium sulphate as a by-product.
Known as LOH-Max, the process has been developed in collaboration with the owners of metallurgical testing and consulting services company, Strategic Metallurgy.
The firms have entered into a binding exclusivity arrangement which will give Lepidico the right to use the LOH-Max process as well as sole rights to market the technology globally.
According to Perth-based Lepidico, LOH-Max provides an “elegant solution” to produce lithium hydroxide from lithium sulphate, using conventional industrial equipment and without the production of sodium sulphate.
Another significant advantage of the lithium hydroxide process is that it uses conventional equipment and is expected to have lower capital and operating costs than current conversion of lithium sulphate to either lithium carbonate or hydroxide.
In addition, the company noted that most of the lithium chemical consumers it was in talks with had expressed a requirement for lithium hydroxide rather than lithium carbonate.
Lepidico managing director Joe Walsh said it would now fast-track the integration of LOH-Max into its development plans.
“LOH-Max is an exciting new development opportunity for Lepidico shareholders, allowing the production of a premium priced lithium chemical at lower operating cost than the production of lithium carbonate,” he said.
Pilot plant development to include LOH-Max
Lepidico now plans to integrate the technology into its pilot plant development, located in Western Australia.
The plant, which was initially earmarked to produce lithium carbonate, will now be subject to a proportion of re-work under phase one as the company works to include LOH-Max into the circuit.
With this, its L-Max technology will now provide feed to the new propriety process, LOH-Max.
While the final process stages of the plant are being adapted, Lepidico said the plant remained on schedule for commissioning in April this year, with operations set to commence in May.
As part of cost comparison work for its phase one plant feasibility study, Lepidico said it had crunched the numbers on LOH-Max versus the industry conventional process step to convert lithium sulphate to either lithium carbonate.
The work has resulted in a material reduction in operating and capital costs using LOH-Max, with the cost advantages meaning the technology is suited for application in the final processing of a broad range of lithium concentrates.
Lepidico told shareholders it was confident of the opportunity to licence the process technology to the growing number of lithium chemical producers.
The company’s shares soared 15.8% in afternoon trade to $0.022.