Key commercial terms agreed
for a Joint Venture

Following award of A$20 million Federal Government
Modern Manufacturing Initiative Grant

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.

 

Calix and Pilbara Minerals Mid-Stream Project Update

KEY POINTS

  • Scoping Study completed for the Mid-Stream Project process pathway and potential Demonstration Plant.
  • Scoping Study provides preliminary support for the construction of a demonstration scale chemicals facility at Pilgangoora, producing value-added lithium phosphate salts via an innovative refining process.
  • Lithium phosphate salt selected as the preferred product, which is aiming to support a highly viable feedstock for a number of battery chemicals manufacturers, including the lithium ferro phosphate (LFP) battery cathode manufacturing industry, as well as lithium carbonate and lithium hydroxide production.
  • Using Calix Limited’s (ASX:CXL) flash calcination technology, test-work has confirmed high calcination conversion rates (>95% for alpha to beta spodumene phase transformation) using fine flotation spodumene concentrate [1] produced from Pilgangoora.
  • The contained lithia content of the product is expected to increase from ~5.7-6.0% in spodumene concentrates to >36% in lithium phosphate salts, thereby optimising offshore product logistics, reducing associated carbon emissions, and minimising waste in the destination market.
  • The Mid-Stream project has the potential to deliver significant sustainability benefits across the lithium supply chain via:
      • substantial reduction of carbon energy requirements by the complete electrification of the Mid-Stream process, including spodumene calcining, enabling the potential to power the project using up to 100% renewables sourced power;
      • rationalisation of the carbon footprint via reduced waste movement requirements across transport and logistics supply chains from a more lithium-dense, and near zero-waste final product; and
      • improved lithium recovery from the ore resource, as the proposed refining process should have the ability to treat very fine spodumene concentrates at lower lithia grades, which have traditionally been problematic for calcination in conventional direct-fired horizontal rotary calciners.
      • Consistent with the previously announced MoU, Pilbara Minerals and Calix intend to move forward with negotiations to establish a Joint Venture (JV) to potentially develop a demonstration plant, and for the commercialisation of the Mid-Stream process technology globally.

[1] Conversion rates vary as a function of concentrate properties (including particle size) and further testwork is underway.

 

The Scoping Study, which was undertaken by Lycopodium Minerals, provides preliminary support for the technical viability of constructing a demonstration-scale chemicals facility producing value-added lithium phosphate salts via an innovative refining process at Pilbara Minerals’ Pilgangoora Operation (Pilgangoora) in Western Australia.

The Scoping Study is the first economic evaluation of the Mid-Stream Project which has been prepared to an accuracy level of +/-40% (for Capital costs) and +/-30% (for Operating costs). It represents a preliminary study of the potential technical and economic viability of the proposed process path and demonstration scale facility development.

Any decision to proceed will be the subject of more definitive studies, as part of a proposed joint venture with Calix.

Studies to date are based on a low level of technical and economic assessments that are not yet sufficient to support a business case to proceed with the construction and development of the demonstration plant, or to provide certainty that the conclusions of the study will be realised.  Further, more definitive studies, including on operating costs and whether there is a viable market for lithium phosphate will be required as part of the proposed joint venture with Calix, before any final investment decision can be made to proceed with the development of the demonstration plant.

 

PROJECT BACKGROUND

Following execution of a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) in May 2021 between Pilbara Minerals and Calix, a Scoping Study has been completed by Lycopodium Minerals in conjunction with the Pilbara Minerals and Calix teams. The study’s purpose was to assess the technical viability of developing a demonstration scale chemicals facility at Pilgangoora to produce lithium salts from fines-flotation spodumene concentrate produced at Pilgangoora. Thereby supporting a potential pathway towards future commercial production of value-added lithium products

Mid-Stream Project Objective – Pursuing a superior lithium carrier product

The lithium-ion battery supply market is rapidly evolving with large scale development occurring through all segments of the supply chain. Several prominent themes are shaping the industry including product cost (per lithia unit), product quality (purity), carbon energy reduction and waste management (particularly for the European market).

The objective of the Mid-Stream Project is to deliver a superior value-added lithium raw material that outperforms across the key metrics of product cost, quality, carbon energy reduction and waste reduction/handling.

The project work completed to date has consisted of work to explore alternative solutions to achieve these aims, including reviewing and testing alternate process paths, equipment selection and end-product types.

The Scoping Study undertaken by Lycopodium Minerals has confirmed the technical viability of the Mid-Stream project to deploy a novel calcination technology and integrated chemical concentration process at the Pilgangoora Operation to produce a new end-product, with the preferred product at this stage of study being lithium phosphate salt.

 

SCOPING STUDY OUTCOMES

Process Design

The Scoping Study has confirmed the technical capability of Pilbara Minerals’ innovative flowsheet, which is capable of producing lithium phosphate salt from fines flotation spodumene concentrate from the Pilgangoora Operation. Initial test-work programmes to confirm the flowsheet were undertaken using a produced synthetic lithium sulphate leach solution to produce small quantities of lithium phosphate precipitate.

Subsequent test-work phases further developed the flowsheet to produce high purity lithium phosphate precipitates from Calix-calcined Pilbara Minerals fine flotation spodumene concentrate.

Following laboratory scale test-work, lithium phosphate salts has been selected as the preferred product, having demonstrated superior performance to those other alternatives evaluated to date; however, the Mid-Stream flowsheet is able to incorporate the production of other lithium-bearing salts, with minor modification to process flow (however additional equipment would likely be required). This will continue to be evaluated in future study works.

Flowsheet test-work to-date (comprising pilot-scale calcination and laboratory-scale chemical processing) has demonstrated >90% overall lithium recovery to a final high purity lithium phosphate salt product.

⇑ Midstream Demonstration Plant Design Model

 

Calcination

A series of spodumene flotation concentrate samples from Pilbara Minerals’ Pilgangoora Operation were sent to Calix’s test facility in Bacchus Marsh – Victoria, for processing through their BATMn reactor. These samples were processed under a range of operating conditions to determine whether successful calcination of Pilgangoora spodumene flotation concentrate could be achieved using the Calix Flash Calciner (“CFC”) and if so, what the optimal conditions for this calcination would be.

Testing undertaken at the BATMn reactor was considered as a pilot scale initiative, given the scale of the facilities in use.

Calcination test work during the Scoping Study demonstrated a >95% conversion (alpha to beta spodumene phase transformation) using fine spodumene concentrate, which is regarded as a competitive result compared to industry norms utilising conventional rotary kiln technology.

Further, the Calix flash calcination technique is particularly well-suited to the finer fraction of the fines flotation concentrate at Pilgangoora (less than 75µm). This is very encouraging as it has the potential to solve an existing challenge for the industry when dealing with fine flotation products through conventional calcining technology.

⇑ The Calix Flash Calciner and Electric Pilot Scale Plant (BATMn Reactor)

 

Summary of key Scoping Study demonstration plant parameters

As part of the Scoping Study, Pilbara Minerals commissioned several value engineering assessments to quantify the impact of varying feed lithia grade, decreasing feed spodumene size distribution, increasing spodumene throughput rates and optimising reagent selection.

The optimised value engineering scenario selected via the Scoping Study is the processing of ~27,000 tpa of fine, lower-grade spodumene concentrate, to produce in excess of 3,000 tpa [2] of high purity (>98% purity) lithium phosphate salt. Further, more definitive engineering studies will include this scenario as a base-case for the proposed development of the Pilgangoora demonstration plant.

The key parameters for the proposed Demonstration Plant, as confirmed by the Scoping Study and value engineering assessments, are outlined in Table 1.

Key parameter UoM Scoping Study Outcomes
Concentrate feed dmt/a ~27,000
Concentrate feed grade % w/w Li2O 5.00
Overall lithium recovery % 91
Li3PO4 production dmt/a >3,000
Li3PO4 purity % w/w Li₃PO₄ ~>98
Table 1 – Mid-Stream Scoping Study key process plant parameters.

While Pilbara Minerals is encouraged by the results to date from the Scoping Study outcomes, contributing engineering is still considered to be at an early stage of development.

[2] For reference, the lithium content of one tonne of lithium phosphate is ~95% of the lithium contained in the same mass of lithium carbonate, or ~108% of the lithium in the same mass of lithium hydroxide monohydrate.  

 

Scoping Study Economic Assessment

At a Scoping Study level of assessment, the estimated capital development cost of the envisaged demonstration plant is between A$50-70M.  These are preliminary assessments and further study work is to be undertaken to develop the underlying engineering and refine the expected capital development costs.

Key operating cost drivers to the production of lithium phosphate at Pilgangoora include the cost (or transfer price) of spodumene feed, power supply and the supply cost of phosphate sources. At this early stage of the project’s development, the cost of production is still under review, and will be subject to further optimisation (among other capital and operating costs) in subsequent engineering studies.

 

NEXT STEPS AND TIMELINE

Pilbara Minerals is encouraged by the results of the Scoping Study, potentially supporting an innovative new refining process at the Pilgangoora Operation.

The near-term activities to progress the Mid-Stream project that are expected to be completed before the end of CY2022 are:

  • JV Development and Cost Optimisation – negotiation and formation of a JV between Pilbara Minerals and Calix to undertake further, more definitive, engineering studies to further assess the operating and capital costs for the Demonstration Plant to support the parties making a final investment decision to move forward with developing the Demonstration Plant and for the commercialisation of the Mid-Stream technology across industry globally.
  • Market Samples – a continuous pilot test-work program to produce lithium phosphate samples in lots of 10kgs for a detailed market engagement program to help inform the project of the likely marketability and selling price outcomes of the lithium phosphate salt product being produced; and
  • Demonstration Plant FID – development of the demonstration Plant will be subject to an investment decision being made by the JV parties which will be targeted to be assessed prior to the end of CY2022.

Following progression of the near-term activities and further updates to the market, the parties are indicatively targeting a timeline which comprises Demonstration Plant construction commencement in Q2 CY2023, with construction completion in Q1 CY2024. Following completion of construction and commissioning, a period of process optimisation would follow.

Pilbara Minerals Mid-Stream Project and Testwork Update

HIGHlIGHTS

  • Scoping Study for the Mid-Stream Product Demonstration Plant nearing completion, with technical and engineering work now complete.
  • Work to-date supports the Mid-Stream Project objectives for exporting a value-added lithium product from the Pilgangoora Project:
    • calcination test work at Calix’s pilot scale BATMn reactor confirms high conversion rates (>95% for Alpha to Beta phase transition), for fine flotation spodumene concentrate* produced from Pilgangoora;
    • targeting a materially lower carbon emission footprint through extensive electrification of the calcination process powered by renewable sources, as well as reduced freight quantities; and
    • potential to re-shape the existing spodumene supply chain and present global markets with a cleaner and more efficient supply chain solution.
  • Next steps:
    • Economic and commercial evaluations contributing to a completed Scoping Study early in the New Year.
    • Subject to successful completion of the Scoping Study, progress negotiations for the formation of a joint venture.
    • Agree a work program to develop a Demonstration Plant and ultimately commercialise the Mid-Stream Product’s process technology.

*Conversion rates vary as a function of concentrate properties (including particle size) and further testwork is underway.

MID-STREAM PROJECT SCOPING STUDY UPDATE

PROJECT BACKGROUND

Following execution of a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) in May 2021 between Pilbara Minerals and Calix, a Scoping Study for a Mid-Stream Product Demonstration Plant (”Scoping Study”) commenced, which is nearing completion. The Scoping Study aims to support the development of a Demonstration Plant at the Pilgangoora Project (“Pilgangoora”) to produce lithium salts from fines-flotation spodumene concentrate, supporting a pathway towards potential future commercial production of value-added lithium products at Pilgangoora.

The Scoping Study (undertaken by Lycopodium Minerals in conjunction with the Pilbara Minerals and Calix teams) is assessing the potential development of a new refining process to produce high purity lithium phosphate precipitate from Calix-calcined fines spodumene concentrate supplied from the Pilgangoora Project. This concentrated lithium salt from the Pilgangoora Project (“Mid-Stream Product”), could support downstream lithium raw material and cathodes demand.

Technical work contributing to the Scoping Study (including testwork, process design and engineering) is now complete. Completion of the commercial and economic evaluation contributing to the Scoping Study is expected early in the New Year, following which a final review of the results will be undertaken by the boards of Pilbara Minerals and Calix with results released shortly thereafter.

Subject to the results being commercially and technically satisfactory to both Pilbara Minerals and Calix, in accordance with the MOU the parties will then progress negotiations for the formation of a joint venture and agree a work program to develop a Demonstration Plant at the Pilgangoora Project and ultimately seek to commercialise the Mid-Stream Product’s process technology in respect of lithium phosphate applications on a worldwide basis.

MID-STREAM PROJECT OBJECTIVE – PURSUING A SUPERIOR LITHIA CARRIER PRODUCT

The lithium-ion supply chain is rapidly evolving with large scale development occurring through all segments of the supply chain.  Several prominent forces are shaping the industry including product cost (per lithia unit), product quality (purity), carbon energy reduction and waste management (particularly for the European market).

Pilbara Minerals Mid-Stream Project objective is to deliver a superior value-added lithia product that exceeds across these metrics of product cost, quality, carbon energy reduction and waste reduction/handling.

The project work to date has comprised exploring alternate solutions to achieve these aims, including reviewing and testing alternate process paths, equipment selection and end-product types.

The project has now been narrowed down to a preferred process route and end-product.  The process route under investigation is unique in the use of both the calcination processing technology and chemical concentration process.

Although the project is in its early development phase, the test work and engineering to date which has contributed to the initial Scoping Study provides strong indications that the new mid-stream product (and process path) can be expected to deliver on the desired metrics of an improved value-added lithia product.  In particular through a reduction in carbon energy intensity, reduction in shipped volumes (through higher concentration product) and providing a more easily handled product.  The metrics of product production cost and quality will however need to be further assessed as the project moves through the subsequent phases of study and further development.

Australian spodumene is a raw material feed to a high-value chemical industry that is largely conducted outside of Australia. Producing a high lithium-content intermediate salt product on site at Pilgangoora, will result in a portion of the value traditionally retained by downstream spodumene converters outside of Australia being retained in-country.

The value-added Mid-Stream product is also expected to be able to access diverse markets worldwide.

PROJECT TESTWORK AND ENGINEERING RESULTS TO-DATE

Process Design

Pilbara Minerals together with Lycopodium Minerals embarked on a testwork programme to develop a flowsheet to produce a lithium phosphate salt. The testwork programme was initiated by using a produced synthetic lithium sulphate leach solution to produce small quantities of lithium phosphate precipitate. Subsequent testwork phases further developed the flowsheet to produce high purity lithium phosphate precipitates from Calix-calcined Pilgangoora spodumene concentrate.

Following laboratory scale testwork, lithium phosphate has been selected as the preferred product, having demonstrated superior performance to other alternatives evaluated to date. Other forms of lithium salts will continue to be considered for potential process optimisation in future study works.

Flowsheet test work to-date has demonstrated >90% overall lithium recovery to final high purity lithium phosphate product.

⇑ Midstream Demonstration Plant Design Model

Pilbara Minerals’ mid-stream project development is expected to be progressed utilising unallocated spodumene concentrate production capacity available from the Pilgangoora Project over time, without disrupting existing customer offtake arrangements, including the POSCO and Pilbara Minerals downstream joint venture.

Calcination Testwork

A series of spodumene flotation concentrate samples from Pilbara Minerals’ Pilgangoora Project were sent to Calix’s test facility in Bacchus Marsh, Victoria, for processing through their BATMn reactor. These samples were processed under a range of operating conditions to determine whether successful calcination of Pilgangoora spodumene flotation concentrate could be achieved using the Calix Flash Calciner (“CFC”); and if so, what the optimal conditions for this calcination would be.

Testing undertaken at the BatMn reactor was considered as a pilot scale initiative, given the scale of the facilities in use.

Calcination test work during the Scoping Study has demonstrated a >95% conversion (Alpha to Beta phase transition) of spodumene concentrate to facilitate subsequent lithium extraction, which is a very competitive result compared to industry norms utilising conventional technology.

Further, the Calix flash calcination technique is particularly well-suited to the finer fraction of the fines flotation concentrate at Pilgangoora (less than 75µm). This is very encouraging as it has the potential to solve for an existing challenge for the industry when dealing with flotation products through conventional calcining technology.

⇑ The Calix Flash Calciner and Electric Pilot Scale Plant (BATMn Reactor)
Decarbonising the Hard Rock Lithium Raw Materials Supply Chain

Conventional hard-rock spodumene processing is relatively carbon-intensive. The conventional processing route involves the export and shipping of low-lithium-content raw material (SC6 spodumene concentrate is only 2.8% lithium metal by mass). In addition, this raw material requires the disposal of the waste material at the customer’s site (the 97.2% proportion of the spodumene concentrate that is not lithium). Finally, conventional calcination of the spodumene concentrate is currently done exclusively using fossil fuels.

Producing a more lithium-dense intermediate product on site at Pilgangoora will facilitate a significant reduction in shipped product mass (an 8 to 10-fold shipping mass reduction can be anticipated from the production of a high-purity lithium salt on site), eliminating major waste disposal requirements at a customer’s site.

Additionally, an opportunity exists, through the partnership between Calix and Pilbara Minerals, to fundamentally change the method used to calcine fine spodumene concentrates – eliminating the requirement for fossil-fuelled calcining and enabling a fully renewables-powered operation.

The flowsheet proposed within the Mid-Stream Project adopts complete electrification of all unit processes (including calcination utilising Calix’s unique technology solution), which are expected to materially rationalise the carbon footprint across the supply chain through the application of renewable energy in the process, as well as the reduction in freight quantities.

“Collaboration, Calciners and Clean Energy” feat. James O’Loghlin, Andrew Okely & Corey Blackman

Welcome to the fifth Episode of INNOVATING FOR THE EARTH

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

In the fifth episode , James O’Loghlin welcomes Andrew Okely, Calix’s General Manager of Sustainable Processing, and Corey Blackman, Head of Technology at Swedish based SaltX Technology, to discuss the collaboration between Calix and SaltX.

SaltX Technology is a Swedish renewable tech company that has set out to solve the problems of renewable energy supply, demand and timing. SaltX’s grid-scale energy storage solution uses abundant, recyclable and energy dense nanocoated limestone-based materials. The thermochemical storage is charged with renewable energy and can be dispatched when needed, as steam or electricity.

Many industries are trying to decarbonise traditional heating processes. Efficient, low-cost energy storage systems are needed to accelerate the decarbonisation of electricity network and are a fast-growing, multi-billion market.

In 2021, Calix and SaltX combined their technology to develop a potential chemical energy storage solution. They built an electric powered direct separation reactor in Sweden to be used as part of a process for storing and dispatching renewable energy. The reactor will use excess renewable energy during the day to power the reactor to heat, charge and dehydrate salt. Then, when energy is needed, the salt will be recombined with water to produce heat and power.

Andrew and Corey discuss how the collaboration between Calix and SaltX came about, why the two companies decided to work together, how they developed the project, and it’s results.

 

Calix files a new patent for zero emissions iron and steel

Calix is pleased to announce the filing of a patent covering a new application of its core technology for the production of zero CO2 emissions iron and steel.

Iron and steel making sits just behind cement and lime as the second largest source of man-made industrial CO2 emissions, estimated at 7% of the global total, or around 2.6 billion tonnes per year.

IRON

80 to 85% of the industry’s CO2 footprint is associated with the production of iron, as 90% of all iron is produced by metallurgical coal- and coke-fuelled blast furnaces, producing approximately 1.8 tonnes of CO2 per tonne of iron produced.

Iron produced via direct reduction of iron ore using a “syngas” of hydrogen and carbon monoxide (made from natural gas) in a shaft furnace is a less CO2 intensive method, at around 0.6 tonnes of CO2 per tonne of iron, however this process route has traditionally been more expensive, and hence only 10% of the world’s iron is produced by this method. The method requires cheap natural gas, as well as pelletisation of iron ores to prevent fines loss.

Methods to lower the carbon footprint of iron production have started to consider using “green” hydrogen as the major reductant instead of natural gas and coal. The use of hydrogen in blast furnaces is being tested, but there will be limits on the amount of coal it could replace due to a reduction in the conversion rate of iron ore to iron. A “direct reduction process” with hydrogen is currently being assessed in the HYBRIT process in Sweden with SSAB, Vattenfall and LKAB. However as with a normal direct reduction process, the iron ore requires pelletisation, and ultimately consumes about 72 kg of hydrogen per tonne of steel (Source: McKinsey & Co -Decarbonisation Challenge for Steel, P9).

STEEL

Following the production of iron, steel is then produced either by removal of impurities in a basic oxygen furnace (usually following a blast furnace) or electric arc furnace (usually following a direct reduction process). Both production routes allow for the recycling of scrap steel at this point. In both routes, impurities in the steel need to be removed, and this is partially achieved via the addition of lime both before and during the steelmaking process, typically between 25kg to 70kg of lime per tonne of steel, or about 46 million to 130 million tonnes of lime.

Diagram above is from the European Steel Association

CALIX’S “ZESTY” IRON PROCESS

Calix’s “ZESTY” (Zero Emissions Steel TechnologY) Iron process involves the use of Calix’s core “kiln” technology to reduce iron ore to iron in a hydrogen atmosphere at between 600oC to 800oC, about 1000oC lower than a conventional blast furnace, due to the ability of Calix’s technology to handle small particle sizes in a controlled atmosphere. Calix’s kiln can also be easily electrically heated and handle intermittent operation – and thus the process can be energised via renewable energy sources. Because expensive hydrogen is not consumed as a fuel, and only as a reductant, Calix’s process is targeting the theoretical minimum hydrogen use of 54 kg per tonne of iron.

In summary, Calix’s ZESTY iron technology allows for:

  • REDUCED TEMPERATURE OF OPERATION
  • NO PELLETISATION REQUIRED – CAN PROCESS FINES
  • ABLE TO BE RENEWABLY POWERED, WITH INTERMITTENT OPERATION
  • CAN APPROACH THEORETICAL MINIMUM HYDROGEN USE

CALIX’S “ZESTY” STEEL PROCESS

Calix’s “ZESTY” (Zero Emissions Steel TechnologY) 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. The “hot, active” lime produced from the LEILAC technology can be directly fed to the ZESTY reactor, and in addition any extra CO2 required in the C-EAF for the final steel mix can be fed directly from the LEILAC reactor. Some extra lime from the LEILAC reactor can also be used to scrub any excess carbon dioxide, as well as other pollutants such as sulphur compounds, from the exhaust gas from the C-EAF in a carbonation step (“CL” in the diagram). In addition to the advantages of Calix’s ZESTY Iron process, Calix’s ZESTY Steel technology allows for:

  • USE OF ZERO EMISSIONS LIME IN STEEL-MAKING
  • NO LIME PELLETISATION / PREPARATION REQUIRED – CAN PROCESS FINES DIRECTLY
  • CAN ALSO USE THE LIME TO SCRUB ANY EXCESS CARBON, AS WELL AS OTHER POLLUTANTS, FROM THE EXHAUST GASES

DEVELOPMENT UNDERWAY

Professor Paul Fennell – Professor of Clean Energy at Imperial College London said “The Fennell group at Imperial College is currently conducting its own independent investigation of the use of powder gas reactors, such as that embodied by ZESTY for iron and steel production and have found no substantial obstacles so far in our studies. We believe that tight control of particle size to prevent internal diffusion limitation will be necessary, and there will no doubt be other phenomena to be considered as the technology is scaled. However, the production of iron from iron ore is clearly the most obvious next generation use of the Calix technology, and one that I consider to have great potential”.

CONCLUSION

Calix’s patent outlines the use of Calix’s core technology to produce zero emissions iron and steel. The technology will need to be scaled and tested, and the patent upheld, to achieve commercial success. Initial testing is taking place at Imperial College in London. If positive results are confirmed, Calix will then conduct scale-up testing at the Company’s Bacchus Marsh facility with ores from a potential customer, who Calix has already engaged in discussions.

CEO of Calix Phil Hodgson said: “These are early days for the Calix ZESTY technology, however, given the materiality of both the potential for our technology in iron and steel production and the size of the environmental challenge, being similar to the one our LEILAC business is addressing, we will be pursuing this opportunity as quickly as possible – the world cannot wait any longer.

Calix and Pilbara Minerals team up to explore a new and more sustainable lithium refining process

Pilbara Minerals has signed a memorandum of understanding with Calix to jointly undertake a scoping study to evaluate a new refining process for lithium.

Under a new memorandum of understanding, Calix and Pilbara Minerals will undertake a scoping study to assess a new refining process using Calix Technology, which will be used to create a concentrated lithium salt midstream product for lithium batteries.

Pilbara Minerals owns the Pilgangoora deposit, one of the world’s largest lithium resources. Currently, the ore is processed to produce a spodumene concentrate which is then shipped to customers overseas for use in lithium battery material production.

The scoping study will investigate taking fine, lower grade spodumene concentrate and further processing it on site using renewable energy to create a low carbon, concentrated lithium salt.

The Calix Technology solution involves heating fine spodumene concentrate in an externally heated kiln for a very short time. This facilitates the phase change in the spodumene mineral from Alpha to Beta without the associated melting observed in traditional rotary kilns when treating fine concentrates.

The study is expected to run until late 2021 and, if successful, Pilbara and Calix will form a joint venture to build a demonstration facility at the Pilgangoora spodumene mine in Western Australia, with the vision to produce a higher value lithium salt, while reducing carbon emissions.

Pilbara is expecting the facility to be capable of up to approximately 2400 tpa of lithium salt production capacity.

“Re-thinking calcination” feat. James O’Loghlin & Phil Hodgson

Welcome to the second Episode of INNOVATING FOR THE EARTH

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

In this podcast we’re exploring some new technology developed by Calix.

In ep 1, we heard Mark Sceats tell us about the history of Calix, and how a simple idea became a global company.

In this second episode, we take a closer look at the technology, to understand how the Calix calcination process can be used to develop environmentally friendly solutions to protect crops, treat wastewater, and reduce the amount of carbon produced in industrial processes.

Phil Hodgson is the Managing Director and CEO of Calix. He joined Calix as CEO in 2013, and became a Director in 2014. He previously worked with Shell, then ran his own consultancy in areas such as Biofuel, Clean Coal, Geothermal Energy, and Logistics.

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