Lithium Is Here To Stay – For Now


Despite intensive research with alternative materials, there is nothing on the horizon which could replace Lithium

Both Lithium Hydroxide (LiOH) and Lithium Carbonate (LiCO3) prices have been pointing downwards for the past few months and the recent market shakeup certainly does not improve the situation.

However, despite intensive research with alternative materials, there is nothing on the horizon which could replace Lithium as a building block for modern battery technology within the next few years. As we know from the producers of the various Lithium battery formulations, the devil lies in the detail and this is where experience is gained to gradually improve energy density, quality, safety of the cells.

As mobility moves forward to new grounds with many EVs being introduced nearly at weekly intervals, the industry is looking for reliable sources and technology. For those automotive manufacturers it is irrelevant what is happening in the research labs. They need the products here and now.

So, whatever the future will bring in respect to Lithium, Sodium, Hydrogen or any other promising energy concepts, the best outlook is to concentrate on steady improvements with existing products. This includes compounds such as lithium nickel-cobalt-manganese (NCM) and lithium nickel-cobalt-aluminum (NCA) cathodes which show superior energy densities to lithium iron phosphate (LFP) at a cost of greater instability. NCM cathodes are most commonly used while R&D is intensely looking for ways to reduce dependency on cobalt. One way is to increase the concentration of nickel without sacrificing on the internal crystal structure of the electrode. It seems that at higher nickel concentrations only LiOH will give stable performance while LiCO3 reduces the lifespan of the battery.

This reflects the trend to invest more into LiOH production as compared to LiCO3. And here comes the lithium source into play: Spodumene rock is significantly more flexible in terms of production process. It allows for a streamlined production of LiOH while the use of lithium brine normally leads through LiCO3 as an intermediary to produce LiOH. Hence, the production cost of LiOH is significantly lower with spodumene as source instead of brine. It is clear that with the shear quantity of lithium brine available in the world, eventually new process technologies must be developed to efficiently apply this source. With various companies investigating new process we will eventually see this coming. But for now spodumene is a safer bet.

With its impressive experience gained in this industry, DrM is actively involved with a number of technology companies developing purification stages with the target to improve efficiency and streamline the process. Both for spodumene and brine as source material, we are being contacted as a technology partner to provide equipment and know-how as early in the development stage as possible. With pilot equipment readily available in strategic places such as Australia, Chile, Argentina, China, Korea and Japan we can ensure quick turnarounds and provide flexibility in the often complex decision-taking process.

Maritime Off Gas Scrubbing


The maritime industry is facing great changes: Starting 1st of January 2020, vessels without exhaust-gas scrubbers will only be allowed to use fuel with a maximum sulphur content of 0.5%, while an even stricter 0.1% limit applies in Emission Control Areas (ECAs). The current industry standard is fuels with a sulphur cap of 3.5%. Only ships equipped with exhaust-gas scrubbers can continue to use cheaper high-sulphur fuel oil, HSFO. The so-called IMO2020 regulation is the first in a series of International Maritime Organization (IMO) measures to reduce marine pollution.

Global Sulphur Cap and Emission Control Areas (ECA’s) around the Globe

Maritime Exhaust Gas Scrubbing & Water Filtration

The legislation refers to fuel sulphur levels but allows the shipping industry to use abatement technologies, provided that the technology reduces the emission of SOx into the atmosphere at the same or lower levels. In this sense scrubbers are recognized an efficient technology to reduce sulphur and particulate emission.

Scrubbers are configured in different ways, as open loop, closed loop or hybrid systems. Nowadays most ship owners select a hybrid system, which balances economy with operating flexibility. In a hybrid scrubber arrangement, both open-loop and closed-loop modes (blue and, respectively, red line in the schematic below) are readily available. Open-loop operation reduces costs whenever possible, but a switch to closed-loop operation can be made whenever local water discharge regulations demand it.

Closed loop or hybrid systems require an efficient water cleaning unit, as the recycled water always needs to be kept within a certain quality in order to have a proper sulphur removal from the exhaust gases and avoid any precipitation and consequent fouling anywhere in the loop. Emitting off-gas not being compliant with the environmental regulations is severely fined by local authorities.

Whereas a variety of scrubber designs are available on the market, thus allowing to select among a number possibilities for the off-gas cleaning itself, the proper treatment of the scrubbing liquid is a challenge that cannot be regarded as properly addressed so far. Currently available filtration technologies have certain disadvantages and limitations, such as :

  • discharge of wet sludges that cause high disposal cost or require further on-shore treatment
  • complicate multi-stage treatment systems
  • excessive use of chemicals, filter aids or additives

Pilot Testing on Stena Line Vessels

DrM already holds an extensive experience in filtration of scrubbing liquid from flue gas treatment system, with 170+ units already in operation on this same application worldwide, half of which deployed exactly for SOx absorption and soot removal.

On the basis of such a comprehensive background, DrM teamed up with a shipping company for on-board filtration testing. Objective of the campaign was to test a novel, single stage filtration system under realistic conditions.

Following lab testing at DrM’s facility in Männedorf a DrM FUNDABAC® pilot filter system was installed on two different vessels for several months, Stena Vinga (Sept.- Oct. 2019) and Stena Scandinavica (Dec. 2019- March 2020).

Results and Conclusion

Pilot tests proved the performance and advantages of the FUNDABAC® Filter System:

  • Single stage, direct filtration system
  • Discharge of a dry filter cake, alternatively slurry discharge possible
  • Clear filtrate with turbidity < 1 NTU
  • No use of chemicals, flocculants, filter aids or “magic” additives
  • Closed system, automatic operation, low operator intervention
  • No rotation or moving parts, no drives or mechanical seals
  • Simple, reliable and efficient

Based on the experimental results obtained during the pilot scale tests, a few standard FUNDABAC® Filter models have been identified as a good fit for some of the most typical scrubbing capacities. These are summarised in the table below.
Smaller or larger Models are available too.

Please contact DrM for discussing in better detail about the possibilities of our filtration systems.

Selection Table of Standard FUNDABAC® Filter Models

Dry cake discharge of a FUNDABAC® pilot filter unit