Lanxess Still a Couple of Tweaks Away from Brine-to-Lithium

Lanxess CEO Matthias Zachert said he’s leaning on his engineers to resolve recent setbacks at a U.S. project seeking to convert bromine waste into lithium for EV batteries.

Working with partner Standard Lithium, the experimental technology has shown it can extract battery-grade material of 99.85% purity, yet two further tweaks are needed to improve both the production process and waste reduction, Zachert said on a call.

“It’s not fully where we would like it to be,” Zachert said. “We know where the problem is but the solution needs to be engineered.”

Lithium carbonate, used in cathodes for Li-on batteries, is just one e-mobility opportunity Lanxess is looking to tap. A sudden acceleration in EV demand is proving a boon for chemical and materials companies that have shed commodity products to specialise on higher-margin lightweight materials.

Take polyamide 66 and polyamide 6, used in battery housing due to its flame retardant properties. Lanxess said it’s already struggling to satisfy demand and the nylon market could tighten further in the quarters ahead. That’s before an additional step-up in e-mobility hits from 2022, Zachert said. Lanxess is a key supplier of raw-materials used to make battery electrolytes and has teamed with Chinese Li-on battery-material provider Tinci as it looks to set up shop in Europe.

Even when the brine-to-lithium issues are resolved, Zachert said he will pause before going ahead in order to “understand how big the value pocket is and what kind of risk profile we would take on our shoulders.”

There’s no pause in the wave of battery-cell plants currently being built in Europe though.

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