Conceptual production network in the Lithium Triangle, South America

Fyfe has extensive experience with pipeline projects. Much of our work is in Australia’s energy and resources industry and, more recently, in hydrogen.

As upstream pipeline and engineering experts, though, we are often approached to collaborate on complex projects involving other assets.

This year, we have been working with several other firms, both in Australia and overseas, on an exciting lithium project in South America.

Extracting lithium and the Lithium Triangle

Around 40 per cent of the world’s global lithium production comes from the Triángulo del Litio: the ‘Lithium Triangle.’

This triangle is comprised of Chile, Argentina and Bolivia, and together the nations hold over 75 per cent of the available global supply, according to Harvard International Review.

The areas particularly rich in lithium are the salt flats, also known as salars, which are some of the driest and most inhospitable places on earth.

Unlike in Australia, where lithium is mined in the triangle, lithium is extracted from underground lakes. Lithium-rich water, called brine, is pumped from these lakes, brought to the surface and evaporated in basins before it is further processed.

Our work in South American lithium

We are working collaboratively to design and develop a system of production and injection wells in South America that will ultimately connect to a lithium extraction plant. The project is currently at the design concept stage.

The challenges in a project of this magnitude cannot be understated. Not only is the proposed extraction area geographically large, but it is also incredibly remote and equipped with minimal existing infrastructure.

There is also a potentially active volcano in the region, and the not insignificant matter of getting power to each production station in an area with few roads. The sensitive local environment must be considered at every step of the way, too.

Fyfe’s pipeline engineers have worked hard to create a viable conceptual production network. All while pinpointing the right tools, materials, and thicknesses of pipes down to the millimetre to make the project a success if it passes its current stage.

The rising demand for lithium

Australia is an important lithium producer on the world stage, in 2018 the country was responsible for 51,000Mt of the alkali metal. However, global demand outstrips Australia’s supply and industry capabilities.

Lithium is a key asset in ongoing decarbonisation efforts. We need it for the rechargeable lithium-ion cells that enable EVs, for example. When used in large-scale green energy projects, it’s capable of storing energy during high production periods and releasing it as demand requires.

Jefferies Group analysts predict that global lithium production will rise to meet demand by 34 per cent in 2023, and 14 per cent in 2024.

Fyfe is excited to be working with a global team on this project, one that proves that our top-tier pipelining expertise is up to par on the world stage.

If you have questions about this project or you need the right team by your side on your next project, please contact us.