Eramet and Tsingshan begin commissioning at Centenario DLE plant

News Analysis




Eramet and Tsingshan begin commissioning at Centenario DLE plant

Eramet and Tsingshan announced the commissioning of the Centenario direct lithium extraction plant in Argentina 

The Centenario direct lithium extraction (DLE) project under development by Tsingshan (49%) and Eramet (51%) began commissioning of the production facility, with commercial production scheduled to begin in November 2024 and ramped up to capacity during mid-2025.  The commissioning represents the first ‘battery grade’ lithium carbonate production produced at the commercial scale facility using the DLE process developed in house by Eramet.   

Eramet’s DLE process has been under development at pilot scale for a 5 year period at the Centenario project.  The process developed by Eramet is based around an aluminium based sorbent, suited to operating at 20degC and achieving a recovery of 87% for overall process yield. Expected cash costs at the project are reported by Eramet to be between US$4,500-5,000/t LCE, with target capacity once ramped-up totalling 24ktpy LCE.  Eramet conditionally approved a phase 2 expansion to 30ktpy LCE at Centenario in November 2023, subject to obtaining necessary permits and required investment.    

The development of the Centenario project by Eramet represents a key development in the lithium industry.  Recent years have been inundated by reported of advancements at DLE projects, targeting various brine types globally, though few have achieved actual production of ‘battery grade’ product.  The large number of DLE reliant brine operations in Argentina targeting similar continental brine products will certainly take courage from the developments at Centenario, though the +5 year development period and financial commitments required to get Centenario to this stage highlight the challenges which many other projects are yet to overcome.   

Despite the challenges which remain at many projects, DLE reliant operations will provide vital lithium supply over the coming decade to support continued robust growth in lithium demand from the battery industry.  Project Blue forecast output from DLE reliant operations will approach 300kt LCE by 2030, though many DLE projects will require lithium prices to increase from current levels to support continued project development and economical operations.