Getting lithium from brine is not a new concept. This idea has been proposed since the discovery of oilfields near Valleyview in Alberta which have such a high wastewater to oil ratio that treatment can run up to half of the cost of a barrel of oil.
However, much like any other technology such as driveless vehicles, artifical intelligence or reusable rockets, the challenge is in the execution, not in deriving the idea. It may not be as exciting as robots cleaning your house or a cheaper way to explore space, but a viable wastewater treatment solution could greatly improve the environmental footprint and economics for thousands of oil projects simultaneously solving the supply defecit of lithium that is plaguing the electric vehicle industry and other clean energy initiatives.
MGX Minerals (CSE: XMG / FKT: 1MG / OTCQB: MGXMF), is in partnership with its subsidiary PurLucid Treatment Solutions. The coined term “petrolithium” – through its extraction technology is intended to rapidly separate lithium carbonate among other valuable minerals from brine.
Recently in June, the company showcased its NFLi-5 commercial-scale rapid lithium extraction system at PurLucid’s laboratories in Calgary. There were approximately 20 people in attendance at the demonstration including some investors. At this time, Dr. Preston McEachern explained and demonstrated the unit and answered questions. According to the report, Lithium Recovery from Oilfield Produced Water Brine & Wastewater Treatment, Dr. McEachern started Purlucid to bring new technologies to the problems of watertreatment and solids control. Prior to Purlucid, he was the VP of Research and Development for Tervita and the head of Science Research and Innovation for oil sands in Alberta Environment. Dr. McEachern received his PhD from the University of Alberta modeling industrial impacts on northern hydrology and water quality. Dr. McEachern is active in research with an appointment to the Biorefining Research Institute and adjunct professor appointments at the University of Alberta in Civil and Environmental Engineering where he supervises graduate students in water quality and water treatment, and at Lakehead supervising students in forest hydrology and chemical mass transport. He is a Qualified Environmental Professional (QEP) with the Institute of Professional Environmental Practice (IPEP) which is CESB certified.
CTV News reported on the demonstration. The two minute report that quotes Dr. McEachern can be seen at this link.
A bit more about the process: the key word here is rapid. According to a press release: the MGX-PurLucid process “does not require the construction of large, multi-phase, lake sized, lined evaporation ponds, greatly reducing the physical footprint and enhancing the quality of extraction and recovery across a complex range of brines previously considered unprocessable due to complexity or geographical location outside of solar evaporation appropriate zones. This includes oil and gas wastewater, natural brine, and other brine sources such as lithium-rich mine and industrial plant wastewater”. (Read news release here).
The NFLi-5 unit has a simplistic design that values function over form. While it doesn’t look particularly impressive, it’s a smart idea to make these units as basic as possible. If the company is going to manufacture them in the future, they need to be done at a manageable cost. Manufacturing scale is not the first challenge that the company will face. While the demonstration was generally deemed to be a success, investor’s including myself would like to see these units in the field to help with the proof of concept.
Dr. Kal Kotecha
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