E3 Metals is targeting the development of Petro-Lithium – a new source of lithium from reservoirs associated with oil and gas production. E3 has three NI 43-101 Inferred Mineral Resources in our permit area totaling 6.7 Mt of LCE (Lithium Carbonate Equivalent). The company is in the process of commercializing lithium extraction technology that has the potential to unlock significant value from this expansive resource.
In 2019, E3 will be developing an ion exchange pilot to prove the lithium extraction process in the field and produce large volumes of highly concentrated lithium enriched feedstock (above 1,200 mg/L). This product will be upgraded to produce lithium products utilizing existing commercial processes, equipment and facilities. The goal of the ion exchange field pilot will be to provide the design basis for a commercial production facility.
In parallel to our internal technology development, E3 is actively evaluating industry developments to identify potential options that may complement the Company’s process flowsheet.
Lithium enriched brine occurs within the prolific Leduc Formation in Alberta as dissolved lithium ions in the formation water. Occurring about 2,500m below the surface, the Leduc Formation is an extensively dolomitized ancient reef complex that spans 100’s of square kilometres in area and over 200 metres thick.
It exhibits exceptional flow rates and deliverability due to favourable rock properties and pressure. The reservoir is extremely well understood due to 70 years of historical oil and gas development in the area.
Of the billions of litres of fluid contained within the pore space in the Leduc Formation, greater than 95% is Lithium enriched brine. The remaining ~5% is hydrocarbons which have been mostly depleted in the Leduc Reservoir.
Lithium Production Flowsheet Overview
E3 Metals believes the key to project feasibility is the development of an efficient lithium extraction technology that can be deployed using a direct brine process. Direct brine processing produces a concentrate feedstock that could be turned into lithium hydroxide using conventional production equipment. The benefit of E3 Metals process is that it can achieve at least 20x concentration of lithium (up to 1498mg/L) with reduction of over 99% of all impurities. This is achieved with average lithium recoveries over 90%**.
The production of valuable lithium hydroxide from Alberta brine resources requires 3 main steps:
A. Brine Production and Injection: The Leduc Reservoir in Alberta can sustain very high flow rates within its confined aquifer allowing for large volumes of brine to be produced to surface. Once lithium is extracted, the brine can be re-injected back into the reservoir for disposal.
B. Lithium Extraction: E3’s Ion Exchange Process selectively extracts lithium from brine, concentrating it into a lithium rich solution while removing unwanted impurities and reducing fluid handling volumes for downstream processing.
C. Lithium Production: Using existing commercial technology, the lithium rich concentrate can be further purified to produce high-grade lithium products through electrolysis and crystallization.
E3 Metals’ Own Lithium Extraction Technology
Ion-exchange is a well understood water treatment process using a sorbent that involves the exchange of similarly charged ions within the brine. The sorbent developed by E3 Metals and the University of Alberta has been designed to be highly selective for lithium compared to other unwanted dissolved ions, such as Ca, Mg, and Na. Lab work has demonstrated performance results up to:
- 20x Volume concentration factor**
- 90% Lithium recovery**
- 99% Impurity removal**
This lithium extraction process is a low-energy method that requires no solar evaporation with a rapid reaction time. E3 Metals is continuing to scale this proprietary technology in partnership with some of Canada’s leading industrial facilities to finalize a commercially viable product.
The Alberta Advantage
The favourable jurisdiction of Alberta is industry friendly and has regulations and permitting processes in place. E3’s permit area is blanketed with a vast network of pipelines, wells and roads that are available for E3 to repurpose for the production and processing of lithium brine. Another advantage is the high temperature (70 to 100C brine) and high flowrates (up to 10,000 m3/d of brine per well) allowing for the potential of geothermal power generation or heat recovery. The use of this energy is expected to lower both operating costs and greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions. The Company is confident that its development strategy will produce some of the world’s most environmentally responsible sources of lithium.
* Combined Inferred Minerals Resources outlined in NI 43-101 reports for Clearwater, Rocky and Exshaw Projects; the reports can be found on E3 Metals’ website (www.e3metalscorp.com) or SEDAR (www.sedar.com)
** See Exshaw West NI 43-101 Report and the December 4,2018 News Announcement
^ E3 Metals is currently in the process of proving commercial viability of the lithium extraction technology and there is no guarantee of commercial production