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Li-Metal completes study for a commercial-scale lithium metal plant

| By Mary Bailey

Li-Metal Corp. (Markham, Ont.; , a developer of lithium metal anode and lithium metal production technologies, announced the completion of its previously-announced concept study for a commercial North American lithium metal production facility with an annual capacity of up to 1,000 tons. This envisioned plant would be the first commercial carbonate-to-metal in the world.

As previously announced, Li-Metal engaged a leading global engineering, project management and professional services firm with extensive lithium and battery metals industry expertise, to conduct the concept study (see news release dated September 6, 2022). The envisioned 1,000-ton/yr plant will leverage Li-Metal’s patented and sustainable carbonate-to-metal (C2M) lithium metal technology. The concept study focused on a compact plant design and validates Li-Metal’s assertion that the C2M technology holds promise for the development of a commercial lithium metal plant at a brownfield site. The study showed potential for attractive plant-level economics, in line with the Company’s expectations. Additionally, the ability to leverage a brownfield site would enable Li-Metal to benefit from significant cost-efficiencies in addition to being able to utilize existing infrastructure and potentially an existing workforce.

“Li-Metal is pleased to receive promising results following the completion of our concept study as we continue to advance our technologies and commercialization plans,” said Srini Godavarthy, CEO of Li-Metal. “The results of the study corroborated the viability of our vision and, importantly, further demonstrated that, in addition to reducing harmful chlorine gas by-product, a commercial-scale plant is expected to produce minimal GHG emissions. We are currently discussing supply, investment and partnership opportunities with IRA compliant lithium carbonate producers as well as next-generation battery OEM’s. We also remain actively involved in discussions with state/provincial officials to evaluate the feasibility of constructing a commercial plant at a brownfield site in North America.”

Dr. Godavarthy continued, “Li-Metal continues to position ourselves as one of the leading players in sustainable lithium metal production in the western world, which is key for our ultra-thin lithium metal anodes business, and we look forward to incorporate the key learnings from the study as we continue to progress our lithium metal business.”

Highlights of the study included:

  • Competitive brownfield CAPEX: Upon reaching full capacity with an average production estimate of 1,000 tons per year , the total capital expenditures was estimated at $109 million . The CAPEX estimates in this concept study aligned with Li-Metal expectations and encompasses both indirect costs (35% of the direct costs) and contingency (30% of direct and indirect costs). Owners’ costs and escalation were excluded from this estimate. The capital cost accuracy of this study was estimated to be between -25% and +50%.
  • Favorable Operating Costs:The study noted that the expected conversion cost for converting carbonate to lithium metal, excluding raw material costs, would be up to $31 per Kg including leasing costs for a brownfield facility. This compares favorably to the expected conversion cost for traditional chloride to lithium metal processes of $45-52 per Kg 1 excluding OPEX required to convert carbonate to chloride.
  • Feedstock Requirement: The study also highlighted the commercial plant would require approximately 5,600 tonnes of lithium carbonate per year. Li-Metal is currently in discussions with several Inflation Reduction Act (IRA) compliant carbonate producers and battery OEMs to identify partners to commercially jointly scale the C2M technology.

The study noted that in addition to eliminating chlorine gas by-product, the conceptual plant’s GHG emission footprint would be well below the required reporting levels under the relevant regulatory framework in Canada and USA. As outlined in the recommendations for the study, Li-Metal will continue to develop its technology, equipment design and engineering. The concept study envisages completion of all piloting, scale-up, study, engineering, and construction activities in 48 months for a commercial-scale plant. Currently, about 3,000 tonnes per year of battery-grade lithium metal are produced globally, with more than 95% of that production concentrated in China, according to Benchmark Mineral Intelligence 2 . According to market report by McKinsey , by 2030, the demand for lithium metal is projected to increase to between 21,000 2 – 40,000 3 tonnes per year to support the production of next-generation batteries. Li-Metal is closely working with customers to understand their demand and accelerate the timeline if necessary.