Schlumberger New Energy developing Nevada lithium plant to meet battery storage demand

The energy transition startup of oilfield services giant Schlumberger is developing a lithium extraction pilot plant to respond to the forecast acceleration in future utility-scale and transportation battery storage demand.

Schlumberger New Energy is deploying the lithium extraction pilot plant in Clayton Valley, Nevada, though its new venture, NeoLith Energy. The Neolith approach uses a new direct lithium extraction process to enable production of high-purity, battery-grade lithium material while reducing production time from more than a year to only weeks, according to the Schlumberger release.

Lithium is an element present in most utility-scale battery storage projects, and various research forecasts predict demand will grow double-digit percentage points in coming years. The U.S. Energy Storage Association recently announced that 2020 installed capacity broke all records.

Lithium also is needed for electric vehicles. Tesla, Ford and other automakers are anticipating a major shift from internal combustion cars to EVs in the near future.

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“Nevada lithium resources present an excellent opportunity to demonstrate a leap in production efficiency with a more sustainable approach,” said Ashok Belani, Schlumberger New Energy executive vice president. “Schlumberger’s expertise in the subsurface domain, development of process technology, and global deployment of technology at scale with various partners all play an important role in the innovation and efficiency of our DLE process. We are accelerating the deployment of our pilot plant in response to the high market demand for battery-grade lithium material.”

The pilot plant’s deployment is part of the Pure Energy Minerals agreement with Schlumberger New Energy for the development of its Nevada lithium brine property, using advanced technology to process the brine and extract high-purity lithium, maximizing the lithium resource recovery. Commissioning of the pilot plant will begin following receipt of all necessary permits. NeoLith Energy intends to begin operations before the end of 2021.

Schlumberger New Energy has invested more than $15 million in this DLE process, and expects the development and operation of the pilot plant in Nevada to require a similar amount of investment.

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