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Posco develops production system for battery-grade lithium

By Shim Woo-hyun

Published : Dec. 14, 2023 - 16:32

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Posco Holdings' lithium plant and brine water storage facility in northern Argentina (Posco Holdings) Posco Holdings' lithium plant and brine water storage facility in northern Argentina (Posco Holdings)

Posco Holdings announced Thursday that the group has developed a key system used to acquire lithium hydroxide together with local secondary battery company W-Scope Korea.

Posco Holdings has been using a membrane electrodialysis process to produce battery-grade lithium hydroxide from lithium brine and ore. But the group was solely dependent on imports of components used in its membrane electrodialysis process.

“The development of the membrane electrodialysis system used to acquire lithium hydroxide will allow Posco Holdings to save costs and maintain a stable supply of key components used in the process,” an official from Posco Holdings said.

Posco Holdings and WSK started to develop their own membrane electrodialysis system in 2021, and they have completed the development, Posco Holdings said. WSK will provide key components used in the system, including membranes, Posco Holdings added.

Posco Holdings, however, did not disclose the costs the company will be able to save through running its own electrodialysis system yet.

The membrane electrodialysis system will be first applied to Posco Holdings’ brine lithium plant in Argentina, which will have an annual production capacity of 25,000 tons of lithium hydroxide when construction is completed in the first half of 2024.

The membrane electrodialysis system will be later applied to the country’s first lithium hydroxide factory, located within the Yulchon Industrial Complex in Suncheon, South Jeolla Province.

The lithium hydroxide factory, owned by Posco-Pilbara Lithium Solution, started to operate late last month. The factory can annually produce 21,500 metric tons of lithium hydroxide, using lithium ore imported from Australia-based Pilbara Minerals.

Posco-Pilbara Lithium Solution will build another lithium hydroxide plant right next to the first plant by 2024 to double the production capacity to 43,000 tons per year from the two plants in the Yulchon Industrial Complex.

To the second lithium hydroxide factory within the Yulchon Industrial Complex, however, Posco Holdings will apply a different system, the company said.

“The membrane electrodialysis system will not be applied to all lithium hydroxide plants as some of the factories will be using different processes,” according to Posco Holdings.

Meanwhile, Posco Holdings currently aims to produce a combined 423,000 tons of lithium hydroxide, extracted from lithium ores, brines and other sources, by 2030.