Canada-based E3 Lithium said Oct. 18 the results from three optimized tests at its Direct Lithium Extraction (DLE) field pilot plant in Alberta surpassed key performance indicators.

The tests, which help determine whether lithium can be efficiently and effectively extracted at scale from the Leduc brines in Alberta, focused on lithium recovery, lithium grade in the lithium product stream and the flow rate ratio. The results will factor into the overall design of the company’s commercial facility.

“These results have exceeded our expectations and are extremely encouraging,” said E3 Lithium CEO Chris Doornbos in a news release. “The team is working through the impact of these positive results as we progress the engineering of the facility via our pre-feasibility study. The team continues to operate the pilot to confirm these results and working safely is the highest priority.”

Initial field results Source E3 Lithium (Source: E3 Lithium)
E3 Lithium pilot test's initial field results. (Source: E3 Lithium)

The global push to lower emissions has led to higher demand for lithium, a critical metal and key component for rechargeable batteries. Unlike lithium mined from rock in open pits, DLE is seen as an environmentally friendly way of extracting lithium from brine using chemical processes such as ion exchange, solvent extraction or adsorption.

“The goal of the initial three tests was to maximize the flow rate ratio while maintaining lithium recovery and the purity of the product stream,” E3 Lithium explained in a news release. “Various parameters in each of the three tests were modified to increase the flow rate ratio while aiming to ensure recovery was maintained, along with achieving high levels of purity and high lithium concentration.”

Next steps include progressing the testing of the second third party system in fall 2023, the company said.