Galvanic, IBAT testing proves Smackover brine is DLE compatible
16 November 2022
by Brent Wilson, president and CEO of Galvanic Energy
It’s no secret that a steady supply of lithium is essential to the growth of the electric vehicle industry both here and abroad.
We can find the lithium. The catch is identifying lithium that can be harvested economically and in a way that doesn’t harm the environment.
I’ve written here in the past about my company’s Smackover prospect in southwest Arkansas. We currently hold mineral leases covering 120,000 acres that contain an estimated 4 million tons of lithium carbonate equivalent (LCE) within a lithium “hot spot” of the Smackover formation. With test wells yielding 290-520 mg/L lithium within our top tier area and the entire prospect averaging 325 mg/L lithium, this prospect is one of the most concentrated lithium brine reservoirs in North America.
That’s significant news for our domestic supply chain because our prospect is located close to many current and proposed EV and battery manufacturing facilities. But is this lithium accessible and can it be brought to market without destroying the pristine landscape of this beautiful, forested land?
We now know the answers to both of those questions are resoundingly yes.
In addition to testing wells and delineating our prospect, we have devoted significant time and resources to evaluating direct lithium extraction (DLE) technologies to determine if this method would be compatible with our prospect.
We discovered in our research that International Battery Metals (IBAT) had patented a modular DLE plant that was ready for a large-volume test. That’s when our companies teamed up to put IBAT’s plant, and Smackover brine, to the test.
More than 50,000 gallons of a modest 300 mg/L lithium Smackover brine was secured for processing. We discovered, according to a third-party engineering report, as much as 89% of the lithium was recovered, showing the high recovery potential of DLE technologies, such as IBAT’s.
Besides fresh water, no other chemicals were required in the IBAT process, whereas other DLE operators add acids, bases or both to adjust the pH of the brine through their DLE processes. Of the fresh water used, 94% of it was recaptured and recycled, thus minimizing its consumption. Additionally, the performance of a DLE system is optimized by the natural thermal energy associated with the 200°F brine produced from the Smackover Formation, which improves the kinetics of the absorption process.
These things, along with the relatively small footprint associated with the well field and DLE plant, as compared to other lithium mining techniques, are very important to us.
We are looking for a DLE partner who has similar environmental goals as we do, such as a nominal environmental footprint, water protection and conservation, air quality and others. By holding ourselves to stringent ESG standards and creating a sustainable domestic resource, we are also diminishing CO2 emissions associated with EVs by significantly shortening the lithium battery supply chain through sourcing America’s lithium domestically.
America’s advancement of EVs faces many speed bumps. But innovative approaches to exploration and production of natural resources can drive our nation forward in our efforts to build American EVs powered by American lithium while protecting our environment for future generations.