PERTH (miningweekly.com) – A prefeasibility study (PFS) into ASX-listed Vulcan Energy’s Zero Carbon lithium project, in Germany, has demonstrated the potential to develop a cutting edge combined renewable energy and lithium hydroxide project with a net zero carbon footprint.
Vulcan is proposing to draw on naturally occurring geothermal energy to power the lithium extraction process, and to create a renewable energy by-product, with the operation using no fossil fuels and requiring little water, while also having a small footprint.
Phase 1 of the project would produce some 15 000 t/y of lithium hydroxide, while generating 22 MW of electricity, while the Phase 2 operation would produce 25 000 t/y of lithium hydroxide, along with 51 MW of electricity.
The PFS has estimated a starting capital cost of €226-million for geothermal wells and plant, and €474-million for direct lithium extraction plans and a central lithium plant.
For the two-phase operation, the PFS has estimated a total capital cost of €1.14-billion, while a full, no phase project, would require a total capital investment of €1.74-billion.
The full, no phase project is expected to have a post-tax net present value (NPV) of €2.25-billion and a post-tax internal rate of return of 21%, while Phase 1 of the phased project would have an NPV of €700-million, and Phase 2 would have an NPV of €1.4-billion.
“We are very pleased to reach this major milestone for investors in Vulcan and the Zero Carbon lithium project. The PFS has demonstrated robust economics for both the lithium and energy parts of the project, both independently and combined,” said Vulcan MD Dr Francis Wedin.
“This means that there doesn’t need to be a compromise on the ethical and environmental sourcing of battery raw materials, for Europe’s current rapid transition to electric vehicles and renewable energy storage.
“We’ve shown the potential for zero carbon production of lithium hydroxide, with co-production of renewable geothermal energy, to be highly profitable as well as environmentally friendly. We see commerciality and strong environmental credentials being critically interlinked, not mutually exclusive,” said Wedin.
He said that the company would start a definitive feasibility study on the project in 2021, and would scale up its lithium extraction piloting and advance discussions with European offtakers for its lithium project.