LiCORNE: Fully European lithium supply chain

The EU-funded project LiCORNE (Lithium Recovery and Battery Grade Materials Production from European Resources) aims to set up the first complete European supply chain for lithium processing resources available in Europe.

More specifically, the LiCORNE partners will work to increase the processing and refining capacity for battery-grade chemicals found in ores, brines, tailings and off-specification battery cathode materials (waste), according to the project description by the European Commission.

Significant ore resources of Li and large reserves of geothermal Li deposits were identified in Europe, states the website. Additional to ores and geothermal reserves, the initiators expect that a significant quantity of Li, Co and Ni can be recycled from secondary resources such as the waste of the cathode production processes (approx. 500 GWh expected in 2030) – off specification cathode.

Regarding the supply chain, LiCORNE identified “five large primary resource owners”, with resources expected to comprise 2.7 million tonnes of lithium carbonate equivalent (LCE) in Europe alone. This could be enough for 3,000 GWh – excluding deposits outside of Europe that these companies may have a hold of. However, that is outside the scope of the project.

One of the biggest resource holders listed on the LiCORNE page is Sociedad Química y Minera, better known in the battery industry as SQM and one of Chile’s largest lithium producers. European Lithium is another partner. The exploration company owns the Lithium found in Austria’s Wolfsberg.

In addition, several research institutes form the consortium, like the German KIT or Fraunhofer ICT, and Norway’s SINTEF and Tecnalia from the basque country as project coordinators.

The researcher will take on LiCORNE’s second task, investigating 14 Lithium processing and recovery technologies. After 2.5 years, the most promising technologies will be selected for upscaling and dissemination for commercialisation. Since the planned value chain also includes a cathode manufacturer, Lithium, cobalt, and nickel recycled from cathode material waste should be able to be reused. Looking at the 16 listed partners, this is likely to be Umicore.

Another focus will be on geothermal deposits, which have the added benefit of on-site renewable energy production, so the project description. EnBW is one of the energy companies among the 16 partners, and the KIT also points to a geothermal project in the Upper Rhine Valley.

The European Climate Infrastructure and Environment Executive Agency funds the project with around 6.8 million euros for the next four years.,


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