Lithium from Chile with better ecological footprint

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Lithium from Chile with better ecological footprint-footprint

If Germany and Europe still want to achieve their climate goals, then it needs – in addition to the energy transition – even urgent a mobility transition. And that only leads about electromobility. But even electric cars are always in criticism. Her life cycle assessment is not good, it is happy to say. Guilt would be the batteries. Their production consumes pretty much energy. More but the raw materials are for these batteries in the crosshair. Especially lithium, which is considered “critical raw material” in the supply chain. When it came to bringing more and more smartphones, tablets and notebooks among people, the raw material was not an issue. New devices with ever new lithium-ion batteries could not be produced quickly enough. But the electric car is different at once. First celebrated as a climateetter, it suddenly applies as an environmental killer.

The fact is, lithium is considered a key raw material for electromobility. The International Energy Agency forecasts that demand between 2020 and 2040 could increase around 40 times. But raw material extraction, especially in South America, is constantly in criticism. It is constantly being denounced as an environmental laboratory and socially incompatible. It is all about the water and the indigenous population. And with such implications, neither the auto nor the battery manufacturers – and certainly not the customers of the electric cars – will be associated with.

More transparency for a sustainable supply chain

But what is the allegations? How strong is the lithium production actually burdened human and environment? And is lithium actually lithium, no matter where it comes from? SQM, one of the world’s leading lithium manufacturers, does not want to leave the flat-rate prejudice unanswered and therefore has analyzed the environmental impact of lithium extraction for the second time in the context of a comprehensive life cycle assessment. After all, the company has set up two major goals: First, SQM wants to become the most sustainable lithium manufacturer in the world. For this purpose, it has set up a comprehensive sustainability plan. And secondly, it’s about transparency. Because that is important for the credibility of a sustainable supply chain – both for the battery and the automakers.

Together with the US argonne National Laboratory, SQM has a lifecycle analysis (LCA) for energy and water consumption as well as the CO2 emissions of lithium carbonate and lithium hydroxide monohydrate of brine or. Rock and their use created in cathodes of lithium-ion batteries. The chemical company recorded at the New York Stock Exchange wins its lithium in the Salar de Atacama in North Chile from an extremely saline sole. Lithium can also be gained from rock, especially from the mineral spodumen. In 2018, about half of the global lithium from rocks and brine was produced each. In view of the global importance of lithium production, it makes sense to facilitate these two recovery methods. SQM has now done with argonne.

“We have intensified water and energy consumption and greenhouse gas emissions of our lithium products intensively under the magnifying glass, to see how this affects the further value creation,” says Veronica Gautier, department manager innovation at SQM. “These findings will help us to become a climate-neutral lithium manufacturer by 2030.”One of the most common criticisms in lithium production: recovery from brine is very water-intensive. Thus, it is claimed that the brine will “rinsed” with drinking water from the substrate or the pumping could affect the groundwater deposits. This is factual wrong. The entire process is approved and controlled by several government agencies. In addition, SQM has a comprehensive environmental monitoring system, which is also approved and controlled by government agencies. An early warning system also enables unwanted impact on the environment by pumping off brine and groundwater. All essential information will be under WWW.SQMSenLinea.COM published in real time.

Lithium from Sole has the better Okobilanz

According to the life cycle assessed by Argonne, the water consumption in lithium production from brine is lower than with the spousumen – in the case of lithium carbonate (Li2co3) even clearly. For the entire process, only approximately 22.5 liters of water per kilogram Li2co3 are needed at SQM (the water consumption for supplied products is not included). In addition, in the Atacama, predominantly solar energy is set, while for lithium from spoofumen mainly fossil fuels are consumed. This leads in combination with the relatively larger proportion of regenerative energy in Chile in the lithium compounds made from brine Li2co3 and LiOH-H2O to lower CO2 emissions.

“The LCA makes it clear that the lithium produced in Chile is one of the most sustainable world,” says Pablo Altimiras, Senior Vice President of Sales Lithium at SQM. “The results show that energy consumption, greenhouse gas emissions, sulfur dioxide emissions and water consumption of concentrated lithium sollen and the associated end products may vary significantly, depending on the method of resource assignment used,” reports Jarod Kelly, Energy Systems Analyst at Argonne and Co-author of the study. And for Michael Wang, Director Systems Assessment Center at Argonne, could also be answered with the life cycle assessment an overarching question in the worldwide trend for electromobilization with battery-electric vehicles. “Often the electrification is operated with the aim of ecological sustainability. But we have to know more about the production of lithium batteries before we can say that we are really on a sustainable way, “says Wang. “This study provides crucial findings for the value chain of electromobility.”

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