On March 25, the 13th International Forum ATOMEXPO-2024 hosted a round table on the topic “Lithium: market priorities and integration prospects.”

The event brought together experts in the field from leading Russian companies as well as representatives of organizations from South Africa, India and the Republic of Mali. Nikita Gusakov, Senior Vice President of the Russian Export Center JSC, moderated the session. As the participants noted, the world market is experiencing a steady growth in demand for lithium. The key reason is the increased production of electric vehicles in the world.

“Large-scale growth in demand for lithium forms a new technological wave in national economies, requires comprehensive solutions and new approaches to building industrial cooperation”, said Yevgeny Palchikov, Director of Strategic Programs and Communications of TENEX JSC, in his report. “Obviously, the consolidation of manufacturers will remain a significant trend in the development of the lithium industry, it will allow us to pool resources and respond more effectively to market challenges.” Among other industry trends, it was noted that full chains of cooperation from lithium mining to production of high-tech lithium-based products keep assembling.

The above trends generate high interest among countries with large reserves of this resource, and stimulate them to actively search for the most optimal technology for its extraction and processing with access to the production of high-tech lithium-based products. According to Amadou Keita, Minister of Mines of the Republic of Mali, the creation of full-cycle production “from a lithium mine to energy storage systems” is a promising form of the lithium industry development for Africa.

Casian Dendere, Director of Coeng (South Africa), believes that the use of lithium-ion energy storage will cope with the energy hunger that is hindering Africa’s development. The development of the lithium-ion battery production combined with renewables will reliably provide the African population with clean electricity, and the development of electric transport will reduce the environmental burden and improve the fuel supply situation. In the near future, Coeng plans to start working on localizing the production of lithium-ion batteries with a Russian partner.

Jayant Vasa, President of Kavery Napthol LPP (India), said that according to some estimates, about 2.5 million electric cars, 400 million electric scooters and electric bicycles will be in the country by 2030. “India becomes a key player in the global lithium market. We have much to be done to meet this challenge, but our first step is the rapid development of strategic cooperation with friendly countries. Russia is our main ally in this work”, he said.

Alexander Kamashev, Director of the Energy Storage Business Unit of the Fuel Division of Rosatom, emphasized the need to build strong partnerships and long-term cooperation. “It is crucial for us to build relationships with partners in a way that forms package proposals,” he said. “We work stepwise – from market analysis to joint implementation of projects to launch the production of lithium-ion batteries. The materials we use determine the type of product which is dictated by the specifics of the market and the needs of a particular region. Therefore, we are always open for dialogue,” the speaker added.

Igor Demidov, Director General of Polar Lithium LLC, spoke about the progress in the project for the development of Kolmozersky field, the largest in Russia. He said that the company successfully carried out large-scale geological exploration and expects a 30% increase in the resource potential of the field. Speaking about international cooperation, Igor Demidov actively supported the desire of foreign colleagues for partnership. “We work with Chinese companies, we know good equipment manufacturers from South Africa, we are ready to engage Indian companies as technology partners,” he said.

Vladimir Osipenko, Director General of Axion – Rare and Noble Metals JSC, in his report announced the advantages of the sorption technology of direct lithium extraction over traditional hot leaching-crystallization technology. According to him, the direct lithium extraction (DLE) sorption technology is more environmentally friendly and cost-effective even at low lithium levels. This is the technology Rosatom plans to use in Bolivian salars.

Vyacheslav Terentyev, Deputy Director General for Business Development of Zarubezhneft JSC, spoke about solutions that can be used to extract lithium from associated waters of oil and gas fields. For example, modeling the concentration of lithium in brines with the account of seasonal fluctuations in surface water inflow as well as predicting mineralization at each point of the field will increase the efficiency of the lithium extraction process.

Commenting on the possible risks of replacing lithium in energy storage systems with other metals, Mikhail Metelkin, Director of the Special Chemicals Business Unit of TVEL JSC, noted that there are currently no solutions ready for commercial use to replace lithium with other metals in energy storage systems on the market. In particular, sodium ion batteries (SIB) have an affordable and cheap component base, but do not have power density sufficient for electric vehicles. “Experts assess the probability of large-scale financing of sodium technology as low due to the need to recover investment already made in the development of the lithium industry,” the speaker said.

Summarizing the results of the round table, the experts agreed that the lithium industry is one of the most dynamically developing industries, which creates an entire ecosystem around itself. Its future is definitely related to the development of green energy and the increased use of electric vehicles, and lithium technologies in the production of energy storage will remain highly efficient and basic.

ATOMEXPO International Forum is one of the main congress and exhibition events of the world nuclear industry, organized with the support of Rosatom. The forum has been held since 2009. It is the largest business and exhibition space where leaders of major industry companies and leading experts discuss challenges of developing nuclear technologies, strengthen partnerships and exchange best practices. The format of the forum includes an exhibition and an extensive business program whose main topics traditionally cover the development of nuclear energy as an environmentally friendly energy source; human capital management; creation of nuclear energy infrastructure; energy financing and investment; development of non-energy nuclear technologies and many others. The Forum traditionally involves signing of cooperation agreements between Russian companies and foreign partners.

Russia is actively developing cooperation with friendly states. Major joint energy projects are in progress. Rosatom and its divisions are actively involved in this work.