Lithium

Raw material for sustainable energy and mobility

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01

The product

Lithium hydroxide as a raw material

Lithium is an essential resource used to manufacture cathode material for batteries. The growing demand for lithium hydroxide is mainly due to the manufacture of electric vehicles and the ongoing implementation of the new energy policy.

The number of electric vehicles is expected to rise to 30 million by 2030.
Lithium hydroxide is the raw material of choice for particularly high-performance cathode material materials, such as cobalt-reduced NMC 811.

02

Value chain

From the raw material to battery systems

01

Lithium extraction:

To extract lithium, the brine is first concentrated in evaporation basins. Then various salts are separated until a lithium chloride concentrate remains.

02

Lithium hydroxide:

In the standard process, after purification the lithium chloride concentrate is converted to lithium carbonate. This is then further processed to obtain lithium hydroxide monohydrate.

03

Cathode material:

NMC types, consisting of oxides of the elements lithium, nickel, cobalt and manganese, are the most important group of cathode materials. The type NMC 811 is manufactured solely with lithium hydroxide.

04

Batteries:

The distance range of electric vehicles is currently limited by the available capacity of the traction battery.
With innovative cathode materials, the capacity and thus the range as well as reliability can be significantly increased.

03

Extracting lithium from brine

Our work at Salar de Uyuni

The world’s largest lithium deposit is at Salar de Uyuni. Until now, it was not considered economically viable because it contains numerous magnesium salts.

In 2016, the Bolivian state enterprise YLB (Yacimientos de Litio Bolivianos) started to build large evaporation basins for a potassium chloride and lithium carbonate production plant at Salar de Uyuni. The first ones were put into operation two years later.

Through evaporation, a crude salt containing lithium sulfate is obtained which is used to produce lithium carbonate. The remaining brine contains a high proportion of magnesium, but also most of the lithium contained in the original salt solution. In the standard manufacturing process, the residual brine cannot be further processed and is therefore disposed of.

In cooperation with the Thuringian company K-Utec, ACISA has succeeded in obtaining high-purity lithium hydroxide directly from the residual brine. A major advantage of the developed technology is that no extra water is required. At the same time, the new process is comparatively inexpensive.

The contractually-guaranteed residual brine enables a yield of around 40,000 tons of lithium hydroxide per year.  The entire project uses only 2% of the surface of Salar de Uyuni.

Production is due to start at the end of 2022.

04

Areas of application

Energy of the future

Energy storage

To compensate for fluctuations in energy generation and supply, in the future photovoltaic and wind power plants will be equipped with lithium ion battery systems. These battery systems are also suitable for storing electricity in private households and companies.

E-mobility

Electromobility is the future. Rising numbers of electric vehicles and e-bikes are making their way onto the market. A positive environmental balance can only be achieved by producing batteries with "green" lithium.

Batteries

Battery systems are becoming increasingly important as an independent and mobile source of energy for more and more everyday appliances. Household and garden tools, power tools, drones - nothing works without lithium ion batteries.

05

Lithium project

ACI Systems Alemania in Bolivia

To industrialize lithium in Salar de Uyuni, ACI Systems Alemania andYLB have founded the joint venture YLB-ACISA E.M. The first task of this joint venture is to realize a production plant capable of yielding 40,000 tons of lithium hydroxide per year. At a later date, another joint venture is planned to manufacture cathode material and batteries.

Production capacity 35 to 40,000 tons of lithium hydroxide per year
Duration of the joint venture 70 years agreed upon by contract – with guaranteed supply of the raw material
Jobs 1,000 direct and approx. 10,000 indirect
Energy generated via photovoltaics 30 M/Wp
Planned start of production End of 2022
Total investment for 35 to 40,000 tons of lithium hydroxide Production plant: approx. 300 million €
Machines and equipment approx. 150 to 200 million € 90% from D/AUT/CH
   

Largest lithium deposit

Estimated resources in millions of tons
Status as of January 2018, source German press agency (DPA), figures are rounded.

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Bolivien

Facts & figures

0 Population
0 Surface area
La PazSeat of the government
0 GNP

06

Looking back

History of the project

On the 20th of April 2018, YLB announced that Bolivia had chosen ACISA as its strategic partner to extract and industrialize lithium from residual brine in Salar de Uyuni.

August 2019

Entry of the joint venture
in the Bolivian Commercial Register

Entry of the joint venture as Empresa Mixta with headquarters in La Paz in the Bolivian Commercial Register.

Jan. 2019

Foundation of a branch
of ACISA in Bolivia

ACI Systems Alemania GmbH Sucursal Bolivia registered as a subsidiary in Santa Cruz, Bolivia.

Dec. 2018

Scoping
study

Scoping study conducted by K-UTEC on behalf of YLB and ACISA completed.

12.12.2018

Joint venture agreement
between YLB and ACISA signed

during a ceremony at the Baden-Wuerttemberg State Representation building in Berlin in the presence of Bolivian and German ministers, members of parliament, as well as representatives from industry and associations.

You can see Prof. Dr. Schmutz's speech here.

You can see the ceremony in moving pictures here.

07.12.2018

Publication of
the "Decreto".

Publication in the GACETA OFICIAL of the government decision to found the Empresa Mixta between YLB and ACISA.

05.10.2018

Signing of
the "minuta"

Partnership agreement between YLB and ACISA in La Paz.