(Bloomberg) — On the outskirts of El Dorado — heart of Arkansas’ 1920s oil boom — a company backed by Koch Industries Inc. is looking to dramatically speed up extraction of a battery metal essential to weaning the world off fossil fuels, while proving naysayers wrong in the process.
Standard Lithium Ltd. is working on the breakthrough inside a white warehouse near a massive chemical factory run by Germany’s Lanxess AG that feeds brackish wastewater into the facility. A cluster of pipes and tanks in the demonstration plant turn brine into a lithium compound within days instead of the year or more that traditional recovery methods take.
The firm is among dozens of companies racing to commercialize technology to extract lithium directly from brine, ushering in a new source to supplement the hard rock mines and huge evaporation ponds that currently supply the battery metal to the world.
The outcome of such efforts is set to shape the industry’s future, bringing either the promise of abundant supply or setbacks that sour investors for years.
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