Lithium producer SQM to partner Argonne National Lab in sustainability study

by Michael Green
Project 'will support SQM's goal to become carbon neutral by 2030'. Photo: SQM
Chilean lithium producer SQM is to partner the US Department of Energy’s Argonne National Laboratory in a study into the environmental sustainability of the lithium production process.

Jarod Kelly, a life cycle analyst in Argonne’s energy systems division, which is overseeing the project, said the partnership "will provide for a much better understanding of the environmental impacts of battery production, because the analysis will be rooted in more complete data than is often available”.

Michael Wang, director of Argonne’s Systems Assessment Center and a member of the project team, said the analysis would help address "an overarching question in the global trend toward the electrification of transportation with battery electric vehicles”.

Carbon netural goal

Wang said: "Often electrification is for the purpose of pursuing environmental sustainability. But we need to know more about lithium battery production before we can say we are truly on a sustainable path, or if we are just simply solving one problem, but creating another one.”

SQM head of innovation, Veronica Gautier, said the collaboration would also help the mining group achieve its goal of becoming carbon neutral by 2030.

Gautier said SQM, which produces lithium from the Salar de Atacama, a large salt flat in the northern part of the country next to the Andes Mountains, would be making the study results public.

The formal analysis began last year and is using Argonne’s open-source modelling tool, GREET (greenhouse gases, regulated emissions, and energy use in technologies), with detailed data and technical insight coming from SQM.

The results of the study are expected to be published later this year.

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