10 Mar 2023 15:32

Gazprom working on pilot plant for producing lithium carbonate at Kovykta deposit

IRKUTSK. March 10 (Interfax) - Gazprom intends to build a pilot plant for the production of lithium carbonate with a capacity of up to 960 cubic meters of feedstock per hour at Kovykta, Vladimir Vagarin, general director of Gazprom Design, writes in Gas Industry magazine.

The project for the extraction of lithium from the hydro-mineral raw materials of the deposit provides for the establishment of several pilot plants. The process includes the extraction of lithium-rich brines from a depth of 1.5-2 km, the preparation of the brine, the adsorption release of lithium, and the re-injection of the spent brine into the reservoir.

"At the first stage, it is planned to create a facility for the production of lithium carbonate with a feedstock, or brine, capacity of 240 cubic meters per hour with an increase in capacity at the second stage to 960 cubic meters per hour," Vagarin said.

The functions of developing and coordinating the main technical solutions and performing design and survey work for the project have been assigned to Gazprom Design.

"The project has the status of a pilot project, as one of its main goals is to obtain the necessary experience and practical data on technical and economic indicators and risks," the designer said.

Currently, the locations with the easiest lithium extraction, done via solar evaporation, are the Chilean and Argentine highland salt marshes, where the content of impurities in the raw material is minimal, he said. Meanwhile, the processing of brines from high-mountain lakes in China, which contain, in addition to lithium, a large amount of magnesium, requires the use of an adsorption process carries a noticeably higher cost.

Generally similar, the brines of the Kovykta gas and condensate field contain a lower concentration of lithium with a higher content of associated elements. "From this it follows that objectively the cost of lithium extraction at the Kovykta field cannot be low," the author says.

Earlier it was reported that in October 2021, as part of the St. Petersburg International Gas Forum, Gazprom and Irkutsk Oil Company signed a memorandum of intent to implement a joint project for the extraction and processing of formation brines, or mineralized groundwater, from Gazprom's Kovykta field in order to obtain lithium compounds and other valuable components.