Zeotech has successfully completed the pilot plant research program for its novel and proprietary mineral processing technology with the University of Queensland (UQ).

The pilot has been in operation at UQ’s School of Chemical Engineering since February 2021 and has demonstrated a continuous closed-loop circuit from lithium process by-product (leached spodumene) and kaolin feedstock options, which provides key process validation of the patent pending technology.

Recent performance runs and process optimisation has generated over 20kg of manufactured zeolite product.

Synthetic zeolites are known as molecular sieves and are made up of tiny pores that make them useful as adsorbents, catalysts and ultrafine filters. Recently, the company executed a research program with Griffith University to develop and validate if a layer of zeolites within landfill capping soils could also intercept and oxidise methane.

Zeotech (ASX:ZEO) noted that development of the mineral processing technology will now be accelerated under two parallel work streams with technology associated with the lithium process by-product to be advanced by the Resources Technology and Critical Minerals Processing Trailblazer Program (Trailblazer).

Meanwhile, development of the technology from kaolin feedstock will be undertaken at the company’s recently established lab facility at Brisbane Technology Park, following commissioning of a scaled-up in-house pilot.

UQ School of Engineering Associate Professor James Vaughan said the successful continuous piloting, data collection and zeolite sample generation from the dual feed pilot, places the technology well to progress into the Trailblazer program.

“We are pleased to complete the piloting phase of our commercialisation pathway with UQ and UniQuest and look forward to advancing our technology development under two parallel streams” Zeotech head of projects Dr John Vogrin said.

“The Trailblazer will focus on a circular solution for the lithium refinery industry through to a commercial demonstration plant, whilst the kaolin to zeolite process development will move to our in-house lab facility.”

“This will accelerate development of the company’s process innovation, build internal capability and support product sample production necessary for our large-scale research together with marketing activities and engagement with potential offtake or JV partners.”

Pilot program

Zeotech had launched the pilot program in February 2021 with the goal of undertaking extensive testwork to further optimise the flowsheet of the company’s novel mineral processing technology and de-risk future commercial investment.

This followed positive outcomes from comprehensive lab-scale work undertaken by researchers from UQ and lodging of a provisional patent application in June 2019

It initially focused on beneficiating kaolin feedstock obtained from the company’s Toondoon kaolin project before early commercial interest led it to expand the pilot into a dual-feed program from May 2021.

A bench-scale continuous closed-loop circuit using Toondoon kaolin was achieved in November 2021, leading to accelerated procurement and commissioning of the pilot in early 2022 and turning research efforts to focus on further optimisation of process steps targeted at achieving a continuous closed-loop circuit utilising lithium process by-product.

Meanwhile, the development and optimisation of the proprietary flowsheet from lithium process by-product led to the company’s inclusion as an industry partner in the Trailblazer, led by Curtin University, and in conjunction with project partners UQ and Covalent Lithium.

Looking ahead

The Trailblazer program will seek to advance the technology from pilot through to commissioning and factory acceptance of a large-scale commercial demonstration plant, with technology readiness level milestones set at each contingent stage of development.

While the demonstration plant will be principally developed under the Trailblazer stream, the company’s core flowsheet will remain unchanged, allowing it to function with both feedstock options.

The in-house development of the proprietary process which utilises kaolin feedstock will include a scaled-up pilot that will generate manufactured zeolite for Zeotech’s large-scale research programs in agricultural nutrient management and landfill methane control.

It will also support the company’s marketing activity and enhance engagement with potential offtake or joint venture partners.

Preparation of product specification and safety data sheets which will accompany manufactured zeolite product samples is already well advanced.

This article was developed in collaboration with Zeotech, a Stockhead advertiser at the time of publishing.

This article does not constitute financial product advice. You should consider obtaining independent advice before making any financial decisions.