Phil Hodgson on the opportunity of decarbonising Australian lithium with Pilbara Minerals

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Calix and Pilbara Minerals execute joint venture

Pilbara Minerals

Calix and Pilbara Minerals execute joint venture

Calix (ASX: CLX) and Pilbara Minerals (ASX: PLS) have executed a formal joint venture agreement for an innovative decarbonised lithium refining project that aims to create a new, high value and low carbon intensity lithium product in the Pilbara.

The joint venture follows a successful joint initial scoping study, and a close working relationship built over the past 18 months.

Phil Hodgson

Calix Managing Director and CEO, Phil Hodgson said, “Calix is delighted to formally announce our joint venture agreement with Pilbara Minerals for the development of a sustainable, high value mid-stream lithium product.

“Calix is focused on decarbonising our essential industries, utilising our core technology’s ability to electrify industrial processing, and minimise the waste and CO2 footprint of minerals.”

“We are excited to join forces with Pilbara Minerals and formalise our close working relationship built over the past 18 months. We will apply our combined capabilities to generate a more sustainable and valuable Australian lithium product.”

Dale Henderson

 

Pilbara Minerals’ Managing Director and CEO, Dale Henderson agreed, “It’s a great privilege to enter this partnership with Calix. The Mid-stream project has the potential to be a game changer for our industry.

“If successful, we will be able to deliver a superior product to market, that will attract a premium compared to spodumene concentrate, as well as a reduction in Scope 3 emissions within the lithium supply chain.”

An innovative “mid-stream” process

The “mid-stream” project aims to produce a superior lithium export product via Calix’s calcination technology for sustainable processing of minerals.

The proposed renewably powered at-mine processing innovation is targeting a refined lithium salt product that greatly reduces the cost, waste, and CO2 footprint of Australian lithium, creating a significantly higher value export product.

The project includes the potential development of a demonstration plant at Pilbara Minerals’ Pilgangoora Project and is supported by A$20m in Australian Government funding announced under the Modern Manufacturing Initiative. A Financial Investment Decision on the proposed demonstration plant is planned before the end of FY23.​

Australia currently produces nearly half the world’s lithium, with the global market for lithium carbonate and equivalents projected to grow six times by 2030. Industrial decarbonisation tailwinds also continue to drive demand for renewably powered, low waste processing solutions for the materials of our future economy.

​A successful “mid-stream” project will enable the joint venture to license the technology to the global spodumene processing industry.

Pilbara Minerals’ Managing Director and CEO, Dale Henderson continued, “This is world-first Australian technology, being developed by two great Australian companies on Australian soil, with the support of the Australian Government – this is an exceptional opportunity for all of us.”

Calix eyes Australian green steel, lithium battery production in the Pilbara

Calix awarded ARENA funding for Zero Emissions Steel Technology

Calix is pleased to announce it has been awarded a $947,035 grant by the Australian Renewable Energy Agency (ARENA) to help fund an eleven-month study for a Zero Emissions Steel TechnologY (ZESTY) iron demonstration plant.

The study will include the Basis of Design (BOD) and Front-End Engineering and Design (FEED) for a renewably powered 30,000 tonne per annum demonstration plant for ZESTY iron.

ARENA CEO Darren Miller said that ZESTY is a prime example of Australian innovation helping tackle global challenges.

Decarbonising heavy industries like steel is a big challenge, and a big opportunity, and ARENA is looking to support companies like Calix that are developing potential solutions,” Mr Miller said.

Welcoming ARENA’s support for ZESTY, Calix Managing Director and CEO, Phil Hodgson said, “We are grateful to ARENA for their support of our shared vision for decarbonised iron and steel in Australia. We look forward to continuing to work closely with ARENA and our partners in industry and academia towards achieving our environmentally and economically important goals.

Decarbonising iron and steel

Iron and steel are materials essential to our economic prosperity and continued development. Responsible for 7% of global CO2 emissions[1], they are also one of our most carbon intensive and hard-to-abate industries.

Currently, approximately 90% of iron is produced by metallurgical coal and coke-fuelled blast furnaces (BFs). This conventional method of iron ore reduction is responsible for 80-85% of the industry’s CO2 footprint.[2] As the second largest source of industrial emissions after cement and lime, iron and steel producers are under intense pressure to decarbonise.

Calix’s Zero Emissions Steel TechnologY

Calix’s ZESTY uses green hydrogen in a renewably powered reactor to produce green iron and ultimately, green steel.

ZESTY can be electrically heated and is compatible with intermittent sources of renewable generation and grid load balancing applications. The unique, indirect heating approach not only enables efficient electrification, but also removes sources of combustion and the generation of hydrogen-oxygen flames, allowing a simpler design and processing at significantly lower temperatures than a conventional BF.

Unlike other direct reduced iron (DRI) technologies, Calix’s indirect heating of the reduction reaction with renewable power means hydrogen is not consumed as a fuel, only as a reductant, and is easily recycled in the process. As such, ZESTY is targeting the minimum hydrogen use of 54kg of hydrogen per tonne of iron, enabling more efficient and economical production of green iron and steel.

ZESTY’s ability to handle small particle sizes has the potential to more easily remove impurities compared with other (DRI) processes, which require pelletised and typically higher grade iron ores. Further testing and validation of this potential is underway.

ZESTY iron aims to enable steel producers to add green iron directly into their existing processes to provide a simple and efficient route to emissions reduction.

ZESTY steel aims to enable steel producers to add ZESTY directly into their process to produce lower carbon, and ultimately zero emissions steel products.

Calix’s ZESTY steel process involves the use of the ZESTY iron process feeding a standard (continuous) electric arc furnace (C-EAF), with the addition of a Leilac kiln to produce zero-emissions lime. No pelletisation of the lime is required, while the lime can also be used to scrub excess carbon dioxide as well as other pollutants from the exhaust gases.

The ZESTY demonstration plant

The $947,035 grant from ARENA will provide approximately 48% of the funding for an eleven-month study for a 30,000 tonne per annum ZESTY-iron demonstration plant.

The proposed renewably powered ZESTY-iron plant will produce green hydrogen for the direct reduction of iron ore to sponge iron. With no carbon involved throughout the process, the proposed ZESTY reactor will demonstrate a new approach to zero emissions iron and steel.

Calix’s ZESTY demonstration plant will also be compatible with intermittent operation, enabling economical use of low cost renewable power and will be compatible with load balancing applications for the energy grid.

The project will cover both the BOD and the FEED study required to determine the final location, specification and cost of the demonstration plant before a Final Investment Decision is taken.

The project will also further establish key partnerships in industry across the hydrogen, iron ore and renewables sectors, in addition to possible end users of green iron through the Heavy Industry Low-carbon Transition Cooperative Research Centre (HILT CRC), facilitating knowledge sharing and the ongoing development of an ecosystem for sustainable heavy industry in Australia.

Green iron and steel – a unique Australian opportunity

Australia supplied over 53% of the world’s iron ore in 2021[1], contributing nearly 44% of Australia’s total export earnings[2]. Haematite, however, makes up 96% of Australia’s exported iron ore[3] and is not suited to most electric arc furnace (EAF) methods.

Compatibility of future green steel processes with the various iron ore grades currently used in conventional BFs will be essential to the efficient decarbonisation of the steel industry, and potentially vital to Australia’s future economic prosperity.

Calix Managing Director and CEO, Phil Hodgson said that the decarbonisation of iron and steel represents a unique opportunity for Australia.

This project aims to further develop a homegrown Australian technology that we believe, together with Australia’s leading iron ore and renewable energy resources, can help make Australia a leading exporter of not just iron ore, but green iron and green steel,” Dr Hodgson said.

Calix’s ZESTY seeks to facilitate the transition to green steel, adding value to local iron ore exports as well as future-proofing local iron and steel production. ZESTY is compatible with multiple iron ore types, including haematite, providing pathways for one of Australia’s most important exports to become sustainable in a low carbon world.

ZESTY-iron is being developed to enable Australian producers to transition towards exporting higher value green hot briquetted iron (HBI) instead of iron ore. The use of HBI to make steel in both Basic Oxygen Furnaces (BOF) and EAFs is proven, and zero emissions HBI would significantly reduce the emissions footprint of both processes, as the energy demand to reduce iron ore accounts for the vast majority of energy consumption in steelmaking.

Australia’s combination of globally leading iron ore and renewable energy resources promises to provide a unique global competitive advantage for green iron production. With current iron prices around three to four times the value of iron ore, the processing of iron ore to metallic iron, and particularly green iron, represents a significant opportunity for Australia to secure and enhance its share of global iron exports, and capture more value from its most exported resource.

ARENA CEO, Darren Miller agreed, “With abundant renewable energy resources and the world’s largest iron ore deposits, we have a unique opportunity to decarbonise an industry that is critical to the global economy.

“We’re looking forward to the outcomes of this study and hope to see ZESTY play an important role in the future of Australian iron and steel.


[1] Climate change and the production of iron and steel. World Steel Association. 2021
[2] Climate change and the production of iron and steel. World Steel Association. 2021
[3] https://www.statista.com/statistics/300328/top-exporting-countries-of-iron-ore/
[4] https://www.minerals.org.au/news/record-high-resources-export-revenue
[5] Iron Ore | Geoscience Australia

Calix appoints Dr Louise Keyte as Chief Technology Officer and General Manager, Sustainable Processing

A leader in innovation

Dr Keyte is a senior executive with a background in research and development, strategy and innovation. She has a strong track record of managing diverse stakeholders, delivering complex projects to drive commercial outcomes, and has demonstrated the ability to successfully develop and grow new business from concept to commercialisation and profitability. With more than 20 years’ experience in heavy industry and building materials, Dr Keyte has previously held roles in innovation development, research and development, and product development. Most recently, she was the General Manager, Innovation, at Australia’s largest integrated construction materials company, Boral.

As the Calix Chief Technology officer, Dr Keyte will drive the efficient innovation, commercialisation and deployment of all applications of the Calix technology. As General Manager, Sustainable Processing, Dr Keyte will lead the development and execution of the strategy for one of Calix’s key industrial decarbonisation business lines, leveraging the Calix technology platform for applications in mineral and chemical processing. Additionally, Dr Keyte will join the Calix Executive Team, making a valuable contribution to the achievement of Calix’s safety, health, environment, governance and sustainability goals.

Industrial decarbonisation

Calix is applying its unique technology platform to enable the urgent and economical decarbonisation of essential industries through a combination of joint ventures, licensing and spin-out strategies.

The electrification of industrial processes is a key step in decarbonising some of the most essential and hard-to-abate sectors of the economy. Calix’s indirect heating approach to calcination is compatible with renewable sources of energy and alternative fuels, making it ideally suited to help mineral and chemical processing enter the electric age. By separating the heat source from the chemical reaction, Calix’s sustainable processing technology can also enable the efficient use of green hydrogen in place of conventional, carbon intensive reducing agents.

Calix’s innovative refining solutions are being developed to enhance recovery of ore and create near zero-waste products, while the prospect of renewably powered at-mine processing offers the potential to deliver a significant reduction in the total CO2 footprint of minerals.

 

“I am very pleased to be joining Calix and its purpose-driven team to help the company achieve its potential as a leading global innovator of industrial solutions for the environment, addressing some of our most pressing global challenges. I strongly believe that Calix’s technology platform offers unique capabilities to decarbonise our essential industries and help to create the sustainable materials of the future.” – Dr Louise Keyte 

SLiCC (Sustainable Lithium Chemical Concentration) Project

Calix Limited and Pilbara Minerals are developing a Joint Venture known as the Sustainable Lithium Chemical Concentration project (SLiCC project), following a successful scoping study conducted late last year. The purpose of the SLiCC project is to manufacture a low-carbon, high-quality lithium salt for global distribution using Calix’s patented technology. This will involve the construction of a demonstration facility at Pilbara Minerals’ Pilgangoora Mine Site, located two hours south of Port Headland in Western Australia. The Pilgangoora deposit is one of the world’s largest lithium resources and is strategically important within the global lithium supply chain.

Historically, ore mined at Pilgangoora underwent processing to manufacture a spodumene concentrate that was then shipped overseas for use in lithium battery production. The SLiCC project, however, moves lithium production to Australia by facilitating the processing of fine, lower grade spodumene concentrate followed by further chemical processing on-site to create a concentrated lithium salt.

In May 2022 the SLiCC project received grant funding of $20 million under the Australian Government’s Modern Manufacturing Initiative (MMI) – Manufacturing Translation Stream. The grant will support the design, procurement, construction and commissioning of the demonstration plant at the Pilgangoora Site.

Key commercial terms agreed for a Joint Venture following award of A$20 million Federal Government Modern Manufacturing Initiative Grant

Pilbara Minerals and Calix have entered into an amended and binding Memorandum of Understanding, supporting the development of a “mid-stream” lithium chemicals opportunity at Pilgangoora.

KEY POINTS

  • Following the award of a $20 million grant from the Australian Government under the Modern Manufacturing Initiative (MMI) Manufacturing Translation Stream, Pilbara Minerals and Calix have agreed key commercial terms for a joint venture in an updated binding Memorandum of Understanding (MoU).
  • The MoU contemplates the JV will be established for the potential development of a demonstration plant at the Pilgangoora Project with the aim of producing lithium salts for global distribution via an innovative midstream “value added” refining process utilising Calix’s patented calcination technology, as well as for the potential future commercialisation of the
  • Upon formation of the JV, participating interests will be 55% Pilbara Minerals and 45% Calix with each party funding their share of operating and capital costs and licensing their technology into the JV.
  • Calix will have a 10% in-kind contribution recognised on budgeted estimated construction costs of the Demonstration Plant in return for Calix providing an exclusive, worldwide, royalty free licence for its innovative calciner technology to the Joint Venture for lithium processing applications.

$20m Australian Government Modern Manufacturing Initiative Grant Awarded

Calix is pleased to announce the award of a $20 million grant under the Australian Government’s Modern Manufacturing Initiative (MMI) – Manufacturing Translation Stream, towards the development of the Mid-Stream Project at the Pilgangoora Project.

The MMI grant represents a significant step forward in the progression of the Mid-Stream Project, which will be used as part of a proposed Joint Venture to be entered between Calix and Pilbara Minerals to support the design, procurement, construction, and commissioning of the Mid-Stream Project Demonstration Plant (Demonstration Plant).

Highlights:

  • Pilbara Minerals, with its project partner Calix, has been awarded a $20 million grant from the Australian Government under the Modern Manufacturing Initiative (MMI) – Manufacturing Translation Stream, supporting the further development and demonstration of the proposed “Mid-Stream Project”.
  • Grant funding will be used as part of a joint venture to be entered into between Pilbara Minerals and Calix for the progression of a demonstration scale chemicals facility at the Pilgangoora Project – with the aim of producing lithium salts for global distribution via an innovative midstream “value added” refining process.
  • The MMI grant will assist the Mid-Stream Project in its efforts to deliver significant benefits across the industry including:
    • increased downstream “value-add” realisation within the Australian economy,
    • significant sustainability benefits across the lithium industry via electrification of the “value-added” process (including spodumene calcining), thereby enabling a decarbonisation pathway, as well as rationalisation of the carbon footprint via reduced waste movements across transport and logistics supply chains from a near zero-waste final product,
    • maximising Australian hard-rock lithium resources via improved lithium recovery, as the innovative refining process should enable treatment of very fine spodumene concentrates at lower lithia grades, which have traditionally been problematic for calcination in conventional direct-fired horizontal rotary calciners.
  • Pilbara Minerals and Calix are well progressed in negotiations in relation to the formation of a Joint Venture for the future development of a small-scale Demonstration Plant, with the Parties targeting to sign in early Q3 2022.

“Electrification, the future of the Industry” feat. James O’Loghlin & Michael Wheatland

Welcome to the seventh Episode of INNOVATING FOR THE EARTH

with innovation expert and radio and TV presenter James O’Loghlin

As the world shifts to more renewable energy sources for transport fuels, heating, and utilities many industries are facing much higher energy costs as well as carbon trade barriers around the world. This has happened before with the shift away from coal, then the shift away from heavy fuel oil, and again with natural gas.

Governments are spending big on electrical infrastructure upgrades and flagging that the future of industry is going to be powered exclusively with electricity with grid scale storage and export with batteries and hydrogen.

Many mineral or chemical processes haven’t had the opportunity to make use of low cost, renewable electricity because availability of proven, large scale, electric fired thermal processing hasn’t been available until now.

The next 10 years is going to see significant shifts in costs and processing methods to more sustainable energy sources. A shift to processes which are more flexible in energy source and feedstock. A seismic shift in Process Engineering, Economics and Profitability is here today.
Is your business ready for the coming decade?

Calix electric calcination is the next step in thermal mineral processing. The world is shifting from the use of fossil fuels over to clean, adaptable technologies. The Calix Technology enables this transition to clean fuels, while maintaining flexibility with process integration and energy source.

Find out more: https://calix.global/sustainable-processing/

Electrification

Minerals processing and synergies with carbon fuels

Carbon based fuels played a crucial role in the history and development of minerals processing technologies. As early as 1100BC pig iron was produced, where iron is blended with carbon in the form of charcoal and set alight to create a crude form of useful metal.

Carbon based fuels have historically been the best and often only option to achieve the required process temperatures to convert low grade ore into useful minerals and metals.

During the industrial revolution, carbon based fuel shifted from basic carbon, in the form of charcoal and coal, to more sophisticated and refined energy sources such as bunker fuel oil, refined oil and natural gas. Throughout the decades, these mineral liberation processes have been refined and improved to squeeze every last percentage of energy efficiency from this source of energy.

Throughout the entire industrial revolution however, the fuel has remained unchanged. Carbon based fuel was the only option for the high temperature reactions required for mineral refinement.

Minerals processing and emissions

Using carbon fuels, the minerals industry has been hampered by the fundamental efficiency limits of a combustion process, where the energy losses through exhaust gas and thermal leakage has defined the limits.

The long carbon chains release energy as they break down in the fire, releasing smaller carbon molecules before finally emitting carbon dioxide as the final stage in the process.

The carbon dioxide emitted from the firing process needs to be exhausted to allow further fuel and oxygen to be introduced, but it carries with it some of the energy from the reaction. Thousands of different technologies have been invented, improved and optimised to minimise these energy losses, but there has never been the possibility of overcoming these fundamental limits of efficiency… until now.

Introducing the Calix Electric Flash Calciner

Inspired by our purpose to solve Global Challenges, and a shift in the energy landscape, Calix has spent many years working on the development of a technology ready for the new energy paradigm – electricity.

The decision to develop a calciner that is dedicated to production using electricity as a fuel source has changed the game when it comes to energy efficiency.

Calix’s indirect calciner design was the perfect candidate to take the next step into the age of electricity and benefit from the energy efficiency improvements and increased availability of renewable energy, made feasible thanks to global decarbonisation efforts.

In a recent Calix podcast with James O’Loghlin, Michael Wheatland explained that attempting to convert a direct fired fuel based calciner to use electricity as a fuel would be a bit like trying to bake a cake by dumping all of the ingredients into the oven and expecting a cake to emerge. It creates a huge mess on the heating elements as they are in direct contact with the product, and the resulting cake would be burned in the areas in contact with the elements and undercooked in other areas.

Michael explained that the Calix Technology is the equivalent of inventing a cake tin. It’s a technology that keeps the ingredients clean and separate from the energy source, it enables good heat distribution throughout the process, and results in a high-quality product all whilst keeping your oven clean.

Listen our Podcast: Electrification…the future of the industry.

 

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