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GEA is equipping two additional production lines of the energy storage and specialty chemicals group Albemarle for the production of lithium hydroxide.


Lithium hydroxide is used as a starting material for the production of batteries for electric vehicles. Other applications include photo developers, ceramic products and the production of borates. The order value for the two centrifuge packages is approximately EUR 24 million.

The filtration and sedimentation centrifuges will be installed at the company’s Kemerton lithium hydroxide processing plant in Western Australia. Specifically, GEA will supply four different types of centrifuges: screen screw centrifuges, decanter centrifuges, peeler centrifuges and pusher centrifuges for the processing lines of each refinery. In addition, consulting services for installation and commissioning are part of the overall package.

Goran Erdevicki, Managing Director of GEA Westfalia Separator Australia, says: "Albemarle is one of the largest lithium producers in the world. We have already delivered and commissioned the first two centrifuge packages from 2019. For us, the new order is a nice confirmation of the joint, successful work of our two companies. We are therefore very pleased that we can now equip two further new production lines with filtration and sedimentation centrifuges."

Construction of the Kemerton plant began in 2019 with two processing trains expected to produce 50,000 tons of product per year when fully operational. The plant was completed in 2022 and is currently being prepared for full operation in 2023. Expansion plans are also progressing, with the FID ("Final Investment Decision") for processing strands 3 and 4 expected in the second quarter of this year, which will increase capacity to 100,000 tons per year upon completion around 2025. The plant will process spodumene ore (containing 6% lithium oxide) transported from the Talison mine in Greenbushes to produce lithium hydroxide and a sodium sulfate by-product.

Background information - Production of lithium hydroxide (LiOH)
The demand for lithium in pure form and lithium derivatives ("derivatives") is steadily increasing worldwide. Particularly due to its use in electromobility, the alkali metal is currently becoming one of the most sought-after raw materials in the world. The reason for this is the unique properties of lithium, a light, flexible element with the ability to store large amounts of energy. For example, LiOH binds carbon dioxide particularly well (1 g of anhydrous LiOH binds 450 ml of CO2). Lithium and lithium hydroxide are indispensable in lithium-ion batteries for electric cars and smartphones, but also in other applications outside energy storage, for example in pharmaceuticals, in the production of lithium stearates as important lubricants for cars and aircraft, in the manufacture of glasses and ceramics, rubber, for photo developers, and in the production of borates (salts or esters of boric acid). In pressurized water reactors, lithium hydroxide is added to the primary circuit to neutralize boric acid and achieve a pH of about 7.2.

It is also used as an air purifier because of its carbon dioxide-binding effect. This is particularly important in space travel, on submarines and in diving equipment with pendulum breathing ("rebreathers"). Lithium hydroxide can be added to cement and is capable of suppressing the alkali-silica reaction. In addition, lithium hydroxide is a potential additive in nickel-iron batteries.

GEA supports customers with technologies for all process steps in lithium production
GEA supports its customers in the realization of lithium process plants with a comprehensive range of technologies. Especially for the mechanical separation of sedimentation, centrifuges are an important component in the overall process flow. GEA's know-how includes the separation of impurities by a centrifuge for solids and liquids as well as techniques for concentration, purification and fluid bed drying of lithium salt compounds. These compounds are mixed with other substances and further processed. GEA is a world leader in spray drying these advanced materials into battery powders for lithium battery production and also offers a comprehensive service.

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