It is not nice to read press releases which are definitely wrong. I wonder why Albemarle launched this. Joe Lowry is right that after kicking out Rockwood's German management completely, Albemarle's managers do not know much about lithium and the business, but to deny logic is an offense.
Such an announcement annoys me and moreover I think that it is a non-ethical behaviour to claim nonsens, when knowing the truth.
The typical recovery rate from salar operations is about 50%. Half of the lithium brine inventory is lost due to precipitation with other salts during the evaporation process.
Here is my calculation:
The maximum pumping rate (permit) at the salar is 442 liter per second, which is close to 14 mio m³ per year. Let us take a look to the left column.
Albemarle claimed a lithium content of 1,800 ppm. Without any loss (unrealistic!) at the salar operations 133,500 t LCE per year can be achieved. This calculation is totally simple and obvious, why is Albemarle claiming to produce 145,000 t LCE at the salar? Do they think to pump brine with a significantly higher lithium content?
I want to show a more realistic variant (column to the right).
Assumed, that the maximum pumping rate can be achieved, the total brine volume is equal. But, the brine quality is most probably less than 1,800 ppm and will go down during the time. I assume an average grade of 1,600 ppm.
Let's assume that K-UTEC really found ways to increase the recovery rate significantly, but it is impossible to reach 100%. As far as I know, it is not by means of adsorption, absorption or solvent extraction, but it should be an optimisation of the evaporation pond system. I do not believe, that it is possible to increase the yield to 80%, but for this best case assessment, I assume an 80% yield.
The result is a maximum brine production of less than 100,000 t LCE at the Salar de Atacama by Albemarle. This is about one third less than claimed.
Do not forget, that my short calculation is a best case.
When taking into account a realistic recovery rate of 80% in the chemical plant to produce lithium carbonate, only 75,000 t LCE can be produced under the quota.
No more comments necessary.