Pittsburgh — EnergyX has raised $20 million in Series A funding to advance its direct lithium extraction technology, with the company eyeing commercialization in late 2022/early 2023, CEO Teague Egan said in an interview with S&P Global Platts.
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The investment, announced May 3, comes as global demand for lithium is projected to grow significantly amid rising demand for electric vehicles and economic energy storage systems. Global lithium supply totaled about 315,000 mt in 2020 but is projected to grow to 5.5 million mt by 2040, according to the company's projections.
"There's a massive supply/demand imbalance in lithium and it's wildly demanded right now because all of the major auto OEMs (original equipment manufacturers) are trying to transition their fleets to electric," Egan said. "We've never really needed this much lithium before and the manufacturing methods we have are not set up to produce that kind of quantity."
With its proprietary Lithium Ion Transport and Separation (LiTAS) technology, US-based EnergyX is looking to lower the price of lithium by making it more abundant using membrane nanotechnology which can lower the cost of energy storage.
Current methods of lithium production require a lot of water and are very land intensive, relying on massive evaporation ponds, Egan said. EnergyX's technology, meanwhile, is a similar concept to fracking in that it allows for greater material recovery, but has less of the environmental pitfalls associated with fracking, he said.
"What we've done is create a solution that is a footprint that is one-hundredth of the size, basically condensing everything into a smaller facility that uses much less fresh water, low power consumption and a much more environmentally friendly way to approach lithium production while exponentially increasing the output."
The core of EnergyX's LiTAS nanotechnology originates from a new class of materials called metal-organic frameworks (MOF), which have an extremely large internal surface area and small pore sizes, with remarkable transport and separation characteristics, according to the company's website.
EnergyX announced a partnership with Orocobre Limited in 2020 where the company has been receiving real-world lithium enriched brine to test at its pilot. EnergyX is going through the last stages of this, then will test larger quantities in the field over a period six to ten months, targeting the end of 2022 to early 2023 for large scale commercial production, Egan said.
Attributing the growing global focus on energy transition, Egan said EnergyX's Series A funding round was oversubscribed, with the company already in discussions for a Series B funding round over the summer, with interest shown from large financial institutions, private equity funds and pension plans from neighboring countries.
The company is also exploring using crowdfunding to open investment opportunities to a wider audience, he said.
"Companies like ours that are high-growth tech companies are for the most part reserved for accredited investors, or 'the good ol' boys club' if you will," he said. "We look at it as a supplement to the more institutional money that we're bringing in, but it affords the everyday man to be able to invest in and get a piece of a company like this at an early stage valuation."