World’s largest oilfield contractor tackles lithium’s water woes

Schlumberger, the world’s largest oilfield contractor, is teaming up with a Massachusetts Institute of Expertise spinoff on efforts to restrict the quantity of water wanted to provide lithium, a key environmental hurdle for the clear power uncooked materials.

Boston-based Gradiant, a developer of water therapy amenities, is aiming to deploy know-how already in use in copper to nickel mines in Chile and Australia to assist cut back the environmental footprint of manufacturing lithium from salt lakes, a course of that accounts for 43% of worldwide provide.

Demand for battery minerals — together with lithium, the important thing uncooked materials utilized in electrical automobile batteries — is increasing quickly as the worldwide auto trade accelerates a transition away from fossil fuels. However the lithium provide chain has been going through environmental challenges, together with over the huge volumes of water wanted to pump lithium-rich brines from deep underground in key hubs like Chile.

“The lithium provide drawback may be very a lot additionally a water drawback,” Prakash Govindan, co-founder and chief working officer of Gradiant, mentioned in an interview this week in Singapore. Gradiant was based at MIT in 2013.

Dozens of firms are pursuing new applied sciences to decrease prices, lower water use and enhance the inexperienced credentials of lithium operations, together with the deployment of direct lithium extraction, or DLE, a time period used to explain methods to chemically seize lithium compounds that would velocity up manufacturing. Most stay at a pilot stage, although US producer Livent already deploys related strategies at operations in Argentina.

Gradiant’s course of, which Govindan mentioned can vastly enhance lithium restoration and permit virtually all wastewater to be recycled, has been developed in reference to Schlumberger’s NeoLith Power enterprise. Schlumberger final yr introduced a plan to collaborate with a unit of Tesla battery provider Panasonic on a DLE plant in Nevada.

Gradiant is searching for to boost $100-million by the center of 2023 to fund enlargement plans, together with buying firms concerned in clean-technology water and sustainability, Govindan mentioned within the interview. In November, it raised greater than $100-million in a funding spherical led by a Schlumberger unit and buyout agency Warburg Pincus.

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