In a significant milestone for the SEArcularMINE project, the integrated pilot system has been successfully tested from January to April 2024, paving the way for its deployment to Trapani later this spring. 


The SEArcularMINE process is entirely circular, as depicted in the diagram below. It begins with seawater, utilized initially for sea salt extraction (saltworks). Subsequently, the process prioritizes the recovery of Magnesium (via crystallization) and other trace elements (through absorption/desorption). Moreover, the necessary reactants are produced onsite via electrodialysis with bipolar membranes, ultimately resulting in a concentrated brine residue. There are intermediary steps with auxiliary processes to ensure that the composition of each exit stream is suitable for an optimal operation of the next unit. The overall concept includes also additional optional steps at the start (freshwater retrieval via desalination) and at the end of the process (lithium recovery through electro-membrane processes and energy generation through reverse electrodialysis).

Throughout 2023, all individual units of the integrated pilot system were finalised and initial pilot tests were run. Each system was then commissioned and in the first two months of 2024 they tested individually with real saltwork bitterns, with the aim to optimise each element for its later integration into the full pilot plant. 


Following this step, the systems were characterized once again to ensure optimal performance and efficiency; research teams identified challenges with each system as it operated within the greater structure. In March 2024, the most exciting phase of testing started at the University of Palermo labs, running continuously the whole integrated system for several days, using real saltwork bitterns . 


The successful testing demonstrated stable operations and provided invaluable practical experience for the project team. Lessons learned during this phase will inform future operations and guide the team in addressing any practical issues that may arise. 


The team is now disassembling the integrated system, preparing for the transport of each unit to the final pilot site at the saltworks in Trapani for on-site testing from end of April and for the whole summer period. 

Stay tuned for further updates on the deployment of the integrated pilot!