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Vulcan Energy Resources has entered the final stage of development of its lithium extraction optimisation plant in Germany, with the company on target for the mechanical completion of its operation in August.

The extraction plant forms a key part of the company’s Zero Carbon lithium project as it aims to become the world’s first integrated lithium chemicals and geothermal energy producer with net-zero greenhouse gas emissions.

Once the plant reaches mechanical completion, Vulcan is targeting commissioning during September ahead of the full operation that will produce the first-ever tonnes of lithium chloride concentrate produced domestically in Europe.

Vulcan’s fully-operational plant will also produce the first tonnes of lithium using the commercially-proven method of sorption-type direct lithium extraction, using renewable heat instead of fossil gas. The completed extraction plant will supply lithium chloride to a second downstream optimisation facility that will produce the final lithium hydroxide product.

It will herald the beginning of Europe’s new lithium era.

Once the optimisation process has been completed, Vulcan will supply its automotive and battery customers, including carmaker giants Stellantis and Volkswagen, with a final product for testing and qualification. The completed plants will also serve as a training ground for the company’s production team to prepare for the first commercial phase of it Zero Carbon lithium project, that is also progressing.

It will allow management to optimise the process parameters for the commercial plant while it is being constructed.

Completing our Optimisation Plant and starting operations in the coming weeks and months will represent the culmination of over 5 years’ work on the Zero Carbon Lithium Project, and the birth of an entirely new domestic lithium industry in Germany and Europe, which we are very excited to share with our stakeholders.

Vulcan Energy Resources managing director and chief executive officer Dr Francis Wedin

Uniquely, the company will produce clean geothermal power for its own use and for sale into the market, in addition to producing lithium hydroxide. Vulcan’s model seeks to extract the sought-after battery metal from its lithium-laden hot brines percolating deep below in the picturesque Upper Rhine Valley that extends across France, Germany and Switzerland.

While more than 60 per cent of global lithium production is sourced from such brines, Vulcan’s competitive – and green – edge is that the heat at which these brines bubble to the surface is capable of generating power, courtesy of standard geothermal technology, with zero carbon emissions.

After extraction of geothermal energy and lithium, the brine is reinjected back into the bedrock to make a closed-loop process with minimal impact on the surrounding environment.

Significantly, Vulcan has also made a raft of senior appointments as its extraction plant draws nearer to operation, including Carsten Bachg as senior director of programs, Cedric Adam as director of construction and commissioning and Neil Davey as director of the project management office and project services. It also plans to leverage its strong cash position of about $270 million to negotiate early works agreements and place orders for key commercial plant equipment as its projects continue to gain momentum.

The company finds itself in the unique position of potentially becoming a major supplier of key battery components without the additional overhead of energy costs. In fact, it looks as if the company will be in a position to offset additional costs by selling off excess energy into the local grid.

With the world heavily-focused on zero-carbon energy production, Vulcan’s lithium project has the potential to become a game-changer in the battery production market.