A major milestone has been reached to deliver a domestic supply of lithium in the UK, with homegrown technology and engineering. Three companies from the north of England – Northern Lithium, Evove and Sheers – have signed an agreement aimed at delivering the UK’s first commercial-scale Direct Lithium Extraction (DLE) plant that combines UK-developed technology, UK sourced lithium-bearing saline brines and UK process engineering expertise.
An RSE company, Sheers specialises in process engineering, bringing a fully modular approach to delivering engineered systems with project management, design, manufacturing, installation, maintenance, testing and commissioning services, complete with inhouse capabilities for principal design and principal contracting.
- North West and North East team-up to deliver UK designed and developed commercial DLE plant in North East of England
- Domestic supply of lithium vital for UK energy transition, achieving net zero by 2050 and is central to UK Battery Strategy
- Project provides global blueprint for sustainable lithium production from brines, deploying next-generation membrane-based DLE technology
Successful industrial-scale production of battery-grade lithium from Northern Lithium’s Northern Pennine Orefield brines was achieved at Evove’s UK DLE Test Centre in August. Northern Lithium is now targeting an initial commercial supply of lithium from its first planned production site at Ludwell Farm, Eastgate, County Durham in late 2026 / early 2027, having selected Evove’s advanced DLE technology and, along with process engineering experts Sheers, based in Darlington, the three parties agreeing to work exclusively towards the design and delivery of a commercial scale UK-manufactured DLE plant. Success will allow Northern Lithium to roll out subsequent production sites with Evove DLE across a large area of the Northern Pennine Orefield, County Durham, where Northern Lithium has secured key long-term mineral and land rights. Northern Lithium is targeting commercial production of up to 10,000 tonnes of battery-grade lithium per year in the North East within the next decade, to supply to UK gigafactories and the electric vehicle (EV) manufacturing industry. This agreement will accelerate the UK’s journey to a self-sufficient production of EVs using UK sourced critical minerals.
The advantage of DLE with Evove lies in the ability to extract lithium at a high purity. In contrast to conventional approaches, the Evove system puts advanced membrane filtration technology at its core. This processes brines containing lithium very cleanly, reducing the energy, water and chemical footprint and improving the economics.
Nick Pople, Managing Director of Northern Lithium said:
We have come a long way in the last year having demonstrated the ability to locate and abstract saline brines present at relatively shallow depths within the granite of the Northern Pennine Orefield, County Durham, and confirmed the presence of potentially commercially viable concentrations of lithium. We have also already successfully processed those brines at industrial scale with advanced DLE technology from Evove, producing battery-grade lithium carbonate. We are now therefore delighted to take the next development step and create this all-UK partnership with Evove and Sheers in a landmark project in County Durham to deliver a first commercial scale DLE plant within the next 3-4 years. Our ambition beyond that is to establish the North East as a key supply source for domestic lithium, not only providing a direct economic benefit to the local and regional economy, but also directly contributing to the UK government’s energy transition plans and targets to achieve net zero by 2050.”
Chris Wyres, CEO of Evove, commented:
“This partnership symbolises a really significant development in the UK, with highly advanced technology from the northwest of England paired with process engineering expertise from the North East to produce lithium from saline brines in County Durham. We are delighted that Northern Lithium have made Evove their chosen DLE technology partner and that we can collaborate with our long-standing engineering partner Sheers to deliver what will be one of the world’s most advanced DLE lithium production plants.”
Sheers Managing Director Roy Warren added:
“With Evove’s groundbreaking advanced membrane and DLE process we have jointly developed a compact, versatile, adaptable modular layout that can be fully factory built and tested. The modular approach, which we specialise in, brings the advantage of high quality, reliability and repeatability, and drives down costs. The full automation of the plant brings down operation costs with minimal day-to-day supervision, accurate production quality control and remote monitoring for quick preventative maintenance response.
Lithium demand is growing rapidly with a supply gap expected to open in 2025. Currently, the UK has to depend on importing lithium for electric batteries, which carries a significant carbon footprint and economic cost. Furthermore, homegrown battery production will also help UK car manufacturers avoid high tariffs being imposed on exports to the EU under new rules of origin regulations commencing in 2024. It is forecast that the UK will need up to 80,000 tonnes of Lithium Carbonate Equivalent per year by 2030 and as much as 135,000 tonnes per year by 2040”.
Richard Morecombe, Founder and Chairman of Northern Lithium, stated: “It’s incredibly exciting to be developing domestic supplies of lithium in the North East for a burgeoning UK electric battery and EV manufacturing market. The recent announcement by Nissan, with three EV models, three gigafactories and up to £3bn investment committed to its industrial hub in Sunderland, is hugely significant for the UK auto sector and to the North East. Securing the critical minerals locally, as a key part of the supply chain, is the next logical step for more sustainable and economic EV batteries. Doing so with UK technology and engineering shows just how capable the UK has become in producing homegrown solutions for the energy transition.”