Vulcan Energy said the pilot plant will demonstrate pre-treatment and DLE processes, as well the durability of the process over hundreds of cycles, to inform design of a larger, demonstration plant that aims to meet the company's goal of producing zero-carbon lithium in Germany.
"Getting our Pilot Plant up and running on live geothermal brine is a significant milestone for Vulcan," said managing director, Dr Francis Wedin. "This has already started producing crucial data needed for de-risking the lithium extraction process."
The Vulcan "Zero Carbon Lithium" project will be based in a German part of the so-called Upper Rhine Rift, in the states of Baden-Wuerttemberg and Rhineland-Palatinate - a region the organisers say contains Europe's largest lithium resource and one of the largest worldwide.
Vulcan will pump hot lithium-rich brine to the surface there, then use renewable electricity and heat to drive lithium extraction using its proprietary technique, with excess renewable energy as a saleable by-product that can be fed back into the grid.
The carbon footprint of the production process could even be negative, say the founders, noting that the resulting lithium can be used in a number of ways, most notably in the production of lithium-ion batteries to meet the demand from the automotive and other sectors.
"Our aggressive timeline was enabled by the project's world-class technology partners and location in Germany, where access to chemical engineering expertise is unparalleled" said Wedin. "This is a critical step towards our strategy of producing lithium hydroxide, using our unique Zero Carbon Lithium process, for the European battery electric vehicle market".