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Skyrocketing lithium demand drives plans for Nevada extraction plant

Updated March 19, 2021 - 10:21 am

A Houston-based oilfield company announced plans Thursday to launch a lithium extraction plant in Nevada, capitalizing on the growing demand for battery material.

Schlumberger’s New Energy division said its new venture, NeoLeith Energy, will launch a pilot plant in Clayton Valley. Officials said it would extract lithium from brine while reducing water consumption by over 85 percent compared with current methods.

The metal is mainly sourced from either spodumene — a mineral that often occurs in large crystals — or brine.

Clayton Valley, which is located in Esmeralda County southwest of Goldfield, is home to Silver Peak mine, the only operating lithium-producing mine in the nation, the Review-Journal previously reported, luring big firms to the area.

The brine in Clayton Valley is pumped from underground and put in ponds. The water evaporates leaving behind lithium compounds.

“Nevada lithium resources present an excellent opportunity to demonstrate a leap in production efficiency with a more sustainable approach,” Ashok Belani, Schlumberger New Energy executive vice president, said in a news release. “We are accelerating the deployment of our pilot plant in response to the high market demand for battery-grade lithium material.”

Lithium demand surges

NeoLith Energy said the pilot plant comes as global demand for battery-grade lithium skyrockets, driven in large part by growth in the electric vehicle market. Efficient production of lithium has also become an important topic for various regions, industries and technology companies.

The company said it spent over $15 million in the direct lithium extraction process and expects the development and operation of the Clayton Valley plant to require similar funding.

The commissioning of the pilot facility will start after it receives all necessary permits, the company said. NeoLith Energy said it plans to begin operations before the end of 2021.

Contact Jonathan Ng at jng@reviewjournal.com. Follow @ByJonathanNg on Twitter.

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