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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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|
Estimated resources in millions of tons
Status as of January 2018, source German press agency (DPA), figures are rounded.
Facts & figures
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.
Entry of the joint venture as Empresa Mixta with headquarters in La Paz in the Bolivian Commercial Register.
ACI Systems Alemania GmbH Sucursal Bolivia registered as a subsidiary in Santa Cruz, Bolivia.
Scoping study conducted by K-UTEC on behalf of YLB and ACISA completed.
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.
Publication in the GACETA OFICIAL of the government decision to found the Empresa Mixta between YLB and ACISA.
Partnership agreement between YLB and ACISA in La Paz.