Industry-Leading Technologies that Reduce Water Consumption

Industry-Leading Technologies that Reduce Water Consumption

Freshwater is one of the world’s most significant and valued resources. It's used to grow fresh produce, support biodiversity and sustain livestock. It helps us prevent dehydration, fight fires, clean streets and generate hydroelectric power. With a wide range of uses but limited access to supply, our collective commitment to responsibly manage water usage is essential.

The Thermal Evaporator in La Negra, Chile.
The Thermal Evaporator in La Negra, Chile.

At Albemarle, we’re focused on getting things right. This includes reducing water consumption, particularly in areas that are water scarce. Today, on World Water Day, we join other people and organizations across the world to highlight the value of water and emphasize our commitment to reduce water consumption through innovative technologies and solutions. Take a closer look at some examples:

Investing to Conserve Water
In Chile, we have invested more than $100 million to install new technology that will allow us to double the production capacity of lithium carbonate without proportionally increasing our freshwater footprint. With installation scheduled for mid-2021, this new technology, called a thermal evaporator, is estimated to reduce the amount of freshwater required to produce 1 MT LCE by more than 30% by recycling the plant's wastewater stream.

How the Thermal Evaporator Works
According to subject matter expert, David Norigea, Senior Director of Engineering, “The thermal evaporator is designed to process waste streams which have traditionally been discarded to solar evaporation ponds. The evaporator will use technology similar to that used in desalination plants to produce high purity water which will be recycled to support our new state of the art processing plant producing battery grade lithium carbonate. The use of the thermal evaporator, along with other innovations, will allow us to expand production capacity in La Negra, Chile without consuming any additional freshwater.”

Magnolia's West plant constructed its artificial marsh in October of 1995.
Magnolia's West plant constructed its artificial marsh in October of 1995.

Using NASA-Developed Technology for Wastewater Treatment
At our site in Magnolia, Arkansas, we used technology that NASA developed for space stations to create three artificial marshes that protect and enhance our environment. How does this reduce water consumption? The marshes are unique wastewater treatment systems that naturally treat Albemarle’s non-process water. In operation since the 1990’s, these marshes use aquatic plants to treat an average of one million gallons per day of non-process and storm water runoff from within the main plant and adjacent areas. This water is then returned to the surrounding estuaries to help support plants and the wildlife habitat.

Steve Card, Senior HSE Manager says, you might be surprised to know:
“We have expanded the plant capacity greatly since the 1980’s but have not changed our water use due to general water conservation efforts. That fact always amazes people!”

At Albemarle, we understand that freshwater is critical for communities, the environment and our operations. That’s why water is important to us, and why our commitment to reduce its consumption has long been a major initiative across the organization. To learn more about our water stewardship practices, take a look at our 2019 Sustainability Report.