The Game-Changing Company with 60 Patents That’s Disrupting the Battery Industry

Have you ever heard of the Lithium King? That’s the title Shale Magazine gave to EnergyX’s founder and CEO, Teague Egan. So what got him that recognition? It could be the company’s patents along the entire battery supply chain, their differentiated direct lithium extraction technology, or the company’s claim that they offer the best complement to existing evaporation pond. Let’s find out!

(Also check my entire Lithium deep dive!)

with 🎙️ Teague Egan – CEO & Founder of EnergyX 

💧 EnergyX is on a mission to become a worldwide leader in the global transition to sustainable energy

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Lithium Refinery – Slider


What we covered:

🌵 How the story of EnergyX started in the salt flats of Uyuni with Teague Egan’s initiatory journey to Bolivia

🗓️ How EnergyX has a masterplan and how this one goes beyond “just” supplying lithium extraction technology to the World

🔒 How the company’s claims of a disruptive approach to direct lithium extraction are backed by an impressive amount of patents all along the value chain

☀️ What the problem with existing lithium evaporation ponds is, and how that offers significant potential for improvement for new technologies

📜 How lithium-ion battery legend and Nobel Prize recipient John Goodenough endorsed EnergyX’s efforts in the battery space and how the company breeds his legacy

4️⃣ The four key aspects to consider when working on a lithium extraction process

🚱 How EnergyX’s take at Direct Lithium Extraction needs water neither on the membrane nor on the solvent extraction side

🛑 How the company got kicked out of Bolivia’s lithium tender for questionable reasons, and how they might come back in the game given their unique technological perks

🚼 How pure end-to-end DLE probably is the future of lithium extraction, but how DLE enhanced ponds are the best hybrid for a smooth transition

💰 How Global Emerging Markets Group placed a $450 million check on the table for the day EnergyX goes public, what it enables, and what it involves

🚀 How you scale a lithium extraction approach from pilot to demo and ultimately down the road to commercial-scale applications

👨‍🔬 EnergyX’s Edisonian approach, the special sauce to the company’s lithium extraction process, the lowest permissible lithium concentration for their technology (and why it’s different than their competition), the company’s bet as to the place where it will go full-scale first… and much more!

🔥 … and of course, we concluded with the 𝙧𝙖𝙥𝙞𝙙 𝙛𝙞𝙧𝙚 𝙦𝙪𝙚𝙨𝙩𝙞𝙤𝙣𝙨 🔥 


🔗 Come say hi to Teague on LinkedIn

🔗 Check EnergyX’s website

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is on Linkedin ➡️


Full Transcript:

These are computer-generated, so expect some typos 🙂

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Antoine Walter: Hi Teague. Welcome to the show.

Teague Egan: Thanks, Antoine.

Antoine Walter: I’m very excited to have you as part of this deep dive. We are running on the podcast on lithium topics because so far I’ve had the traditional players. I’ve had the evaporation pond players, I’ve had some consultants, I’ve had technology companies, but I didn’t have a pure player in that. Fascinating new fields of DLE and beyond, because we’ll see that you go beyond just DLE, but before jumping in, To all of that, I’d like to start with my postcard question, and you’re sending me a postcard from Austin.

So what can you tell me about Austin that I would ignore by now?

Teague Egan: I am sending you a postcard from Austin. You know, Texas is a pretty interesting place. Austin is becoming the new Silicon Valley of the United States. You have All these incredible technology companies moving here such as Google, Facebook obviously Tesla is moving here.

Qualcomm so you know, a lot of venture capitalists are moving here. A lot of technology companies are moving here. Austin, just a very exciting spot right now. A lot of good food, a lot of good music, a lot of good culture. I would say that Austin is a blue dot in the Red Sea of Texas. So it’s an interesting combination of cultures and a melting pot of different people.

So it’s a pretty fun place to be.

Antoine Walter: Mentioned the red aspect. I think that’s something which might be a red threat to the story of EnergyX because if I’m right, the story of your company starts in a desert. Can you tell me something about that?

Teague Egan: Yeah, definitely. The idea for EnergyX Originated from a trip that I took to Bolivia down in, the salt deserts essentially in the and Indian Mountain range. And, most people don’t think of Bolivia as a beautiful place, but this salt flat in Uyuni in Bolivia is the world’s largest salt flat.

And it is. Absolutely magnificent. One of the most beautiful places I’ve ever seen. And it turns out that this salt fly is also the world’s largest lithium reserve. when I heard that, that inspired me to start EnergyX and began looking at ways in which we could more efficiently and cost effectively extract lithium.

Antoine Walter: You say, looking at ways on your website, it’s very clearly outlined how you have a ten year master plan about how you plan to achieve that. Can you take me through those steps?

Teague Egan: Absolutely. So the master plan that we have on the website is even beyond just lithium extraction. Lithium extraction is the first step. To a renewable future. And you know, as I look at the energy transition, we are in the beginning stages of an energy transition moving away from fossil fuels that are both finite resources, but also have a very significant co2 impact Moving away from that.

Is going to take not only a lot of investment, but also a pretty substantial amount of time. And creating the materials to store energy such as lithium is in my mind, the first critical component to that. Then improving upon these energy storage systems such as batteries is the second component to that, and all the while creating.

Better sources of renewable energy generation and then vertically integrating these components. So that’s how I think about our 10 year master plan.

I published the master plan, at the end of 2019. we’re about three years into it. And you know, we’ve made very significant progress on our lithium extraction.

Technologies you know, we’ve learned a lot. We’re basically pioneering a new way of extracting lithium and producing lithium.

There’s a lot of breakthrough technology that we have developed. We look at existing technologies and then take components of those different things and then put it all together to create something new, novel and non-obvious.

And we’ve, filed a lot of patents around what we’re doing. We have over 60 patents now. We’ve basically created a paradigm shift in lithium extraction technology from the current way that lithium is produced, using these massive evaporation ponds that take about 18 months to yield lithium.

They can be 15 square miles in footprint, and most importantly, they only recover about 30 to 40% of the available lithium that enters into the system. for us, there’s a lot of inefficiency in all three of those metrics. We want something that is a lot smaller in footprint that doesn’t, you know, harm the natural environment.

We want something that takes a lot shorter time than the 18 months, and we want something that can recover, hopefully near a hundred or at least over 90% of the lithium that enters the system. So those are the three aspects that we’ve created technology to improve upon. And we have a lot of smart people here at EnergyX working on that.

Antoine Walter: There’s a lot to unpack in what you just said regarding these numbers. If I’m right, you can extract 94%. That’s what your pilot plant yielded,

Teague Egan: Yes.

Antoine Walter: Before jumping into that one, you mentioned breakthrough technologies. I’m just wondering is that what owned you, this envy title, I guess, of Lithium King?

Teague Egan: I’m not mad at that title. It’s pretty cool. I gu I guess I’m the lithium king, but yeah, I mean, we are 55 people now at EnergyX that. Each and every day wake up thinking about how to solve problems, laser focused on lithium extraction. each and every day out of the 55 people, about 35, maybe 37 are science related.

And of that I think, 25 are PhDs. So you know, the top education in science that you can get. Figuring out how to solve these problems is what we do on a day-to-day basis. So, lots of exciting science and experimentation. Lots of failures, uh, took Thomas Edison, 10,000 tries to invent the light bulb.

And some of his other inventions even more. he was trying to create rubber out of plants when he was working with Firestone and Ford to make tires for, cars, and it took him 18,000 different tests to do that one. So, over here we kind of take an edisonian approach and.

There’s people running experiments, every single minute to try to figure out the best way to improve upon the existing process or actually create new processes that can solve those three problems that I mentioned before.

Antoine Walter: You mentioned 55 people, of which 35 to 37 are scientific people, and of which 25 are PhDs I’ve seen that you’re working with. I don’t know if he would appreciate that term, but with the godfather of lithium ion because Professor John Good enough got the Nobel prize for his work on batteries. And if I’m right, you’re working with his laboratory of Texas State University where if I’m right as well, he’s still working.

how did you start working with him and what’s your link towards Texas University?

Teague Egan: so it’s university of Texas at Austin which is where he spent the latter portion of his career as a professor. And John Good enough, turned a hundred years old last year in July of 2022, and. He’s unfortunately not working still to this day. But he was working every day at the university until he was 98, years old.

I guess 98, right? Right before Covid when Covid started. stopped coming into, you know, school, like everybody stopped going to work, et cetera. But Literally worked every day of his life until 98 years old. Never had kids, was never married. He was 100% dedicated to education his students and.

The spirit of, pushing science forward. the way that I came in contact with Dr. Good enough was EnergyX originally licensed some of our patents from the University of Texas focused on lithium extraction using membranes. But it turns out that those membranes had a lot of applicability.

As a component inside batteries. So I went over to Dr. Good Enough’s office. This was when he was at the ripe age of 96. And he thought that, some of my ideas were worth testing, he ended up putting me in touch with one of his last. PhD students a gentleman named Nick Grund, who is now , our VP of Battery Technology and a Forbes 30 under 30 winner.

that started EnergyX’s pursuit of batteries. Nick with us as a consultant during the first year and a half. Because he was still finishing his PhD and Nick ended up leading the charge in getting several of Dr. Good enough’s other students to work on our project.

So, as Dr. Good enough, his, to work. At this point, EnergyX is basically assumed. Several of Dr. Good enough students, and I think on our battery team, we have four Dr. Good enough alumni on our team. That’s a pretty exciting thing for me. And, it’s truly an honor to even, have the opportunity to talk and, receive advice and mentorship from Dr.

Good Enough, and then be working with, his lineage of scientists.

Antoine Walter: You mentioned 60 patents. Out of these 60 patents, if I get what you just said, there’s a section of it which is linked to battery themselves. What’s the proportion of patents which goes to this extraction of lithium?

Teague Egan: don’t, I don’t have the exact numbers, but I would say roughly maybe a fifth of those. So eight to 10 probably are battery related patents. And then the rest are around our extraction technologies and applications.

Antoine Walter: There’s one thing that struck me when I watch your website on your lithium extraction technology is that, I dunno if you’re playing g guitar yourself, but if you portray like a Marshall Amp, your lead test technology looks exactly like a martial amp. So it’s really in terms of, I mean the coolness is great there because it looks great, but beyond the coolness, what’s inside Litas?

Teague Egan: Yeah. Leidos is the name of our portfolio of technologies. It stands for Lithium Ion Transport and Separation. we want to. Transport the lithium away from the rest of the impurities that are dissolved in the brine and separated away. we have several different technologies that that problem and we use a combination of absorbance.

Solve an extraction and membranes to do that. And one of our biggest competitive advantages as a company is that we can custom tailor the process depending on the challenges that a brine provides. So there’s no brine that’s the same. way that I like to communicate this to somebody that doesn’t know about this is that there are Four main challenges that need to be taken into account when considering the proper technology to use.

brine is in liquid form, and the lithium is dissolved into the brine alongside many other salts. Lithium is found in a salt form here.

And the four things that need to be taken into account, one. What is the concentration of lithium that’s dissolved in the brine? Is there a very little bit or is there a lot?

And this is determined using a parts per million metric, right? So is there a hundred parts per million lithium or are there a thousand parts per million Lithium

Antoine Walter: which concentration would you start looking at it?

Teague Egan: we start looking at it at around 150 to 200 is the lowest real feasible concentration that you can use direct lithium extraction. So the concentration kind of dictates if you may start with one technology or another. The second is what is the impurity profile? So what other salts are dissolved in this that you need to separate lithium away from?

Is there a whole bunch of sodium, which is table salt? That’s a relatively easy thing to separate lithium away from, or is there a bunch of magnesium and sulfate? That’s dissolved as salt into the brine. those are much more challenging impurities to separate lithium away from. Is there boron?

Is there calcium? There’s probably 10 to 15 different elements that can also be dissolved into the brine. That plays a factor in which technology is the most efficient.

Antoine Walter: on the second, is there like a no-go? Like if there’s something above a certain concentration, you would simply not consider looking into it.

Teague Egan: Really high levels of magnesium. It is bad. We kind of hang our hat on the fact that we can deal with some of the highest of magnesium, such as in Bolivia. It’s all about the ratio of these other dissolved salts as compared to lithium. in Chile they typically see one lithium for every four to six magnesium.

And that’s a ratio that they’ve had a lot of success with producing the most lithium from brine based resources. In Bolivia, they have 25 magnesium to every one lithium. And for that reason they have had zero success in producing lithium. So when we ran our systems in Bolivia that was the main challenge that we overcame and we hit that 94% recovery rate.

So that was a huge accomplishment for us as a company. The third challenge that needs to be considered is the temperature of the brine. in most of South America, you’re just dealing with ambient temperature brine. You pump it up and it’s relatively near the surface, maybe a few hundred meters, something like that.

In California in the Salton Sea, they have a tremendous amount of lithium, spawns from geothermal brine. So 4,000 or a few thousand meters deep. this comes out at over 300 degrees Celsius. So putting that through a system you need to be able to deal with that.

High temperature and specific technologies don’t do well with temperature. Some do, so that plays into consideration. The fourth not necessarily a characteristic of the brine itself. But a characteristic of the region and the available inputs that you have for your technology. water is one, the availability of fresh water which, you know, there’s a decent availability of freshwater in California or you know, Arkansas, but there’s.

Very limited availability of fresh water in the high Andy and mountain range, in the lithium triangle in South America. So if your technology needs, a hundred tons of fresh water input for every ton of lithium, that’s a real challenge. And maybe a no-go.

Antoine Walter: What would be your ratio? If I’m right, that’s one of your assets.

Teague Egan: it depends on which technology we use, and that’s one of our biggest competitive advantages is that both our membrane technology and our solvent extraction technology don’t need fresh water as an input. absorption, technology needs fresh water, uh, come up with ways to reduce the fresh water to.

Like one fifth of what other absorption based technologies require?

Antoine Walter: you mentioned your pilots. I’d like to understand exactly the context of that pilot.

Teague Egan: we piloted with Y L B, which is the state run. Bivian Lithium company.

Antoine Walter: that’s the pilot where you were 10 minutes late to submit the results.

Teague Egan: Yep.

Antoine Walter: What? What’s that story?

Teague Egan: I mean, it pretty much is what it is. You know, I learned a valuable lesson. it’s unfortunate that they, you know, used that as the reason to. Disqualify us from the tender. But I think that everything happens for a reason and I think that it would’ve been extremely hard to compete with C A T L who eventually won the tender.

We might have, wasted another whole year of time and resources pursuing that. When, c a TL might have been a lock from the beginning. Who knows, right? Like there are obviously other geopolitical factors that played into that. I think that Bolivia has closer relations with China than the US to begin with, so who knows, right?

I still think that there actually is a chance that we could work with Bolivia in the future because, we have the best technology to compliment existing pond infrastructure where I think that what they’re expecting out of C A T L is directly at the extraction straight from the wells.

And they’ve already spent a ton of money on those ponds. So if they can figure out how to. capture some of that value. EnergyX could be helpful there. But I turned in the report 10 minutes late and I could, you know, sit here and give you every excuse on why it happened, but ultimately it was my responsibility to turn it in on time.

So there, that’s all there is to that.

Antoine Walter: I think we could make another podcast on the BOL in case, which is the biggest reserve of lithium in the words, doesn’t produce a gram today. But that’s really too much of a topic , to dive into. What I’d like to understand is that there are two approaches to dearly what you just said about C A T L would be like you take really Bryan and you do dearly straight of the bat, and maybe that’s how dearly will be in the future.

But there is maybe a step in between, which is to combine DLE with evaporation ponds. And again, if I understood right, what you’re aiming at within your roadmap, that is one of the first step, which comes within the next two years. I right?

Teague Egan: Yeah, absolutely. I mean, the future of d l E is no ponds but for the people that have already built ponds and spent billions of dollars doing so, and are leaving 60 to 70% of the lithium on the table, or in Bolivia’s case, essentially a hundred percent of lithium on the table. Why not try to, capture some of that loss value.

And going back to our portfolio of technologies, you know, we can obviously do direct from wellhead, greenfield, dle. But we’re the first ones to think about how we can compliment existing pond infrastructure and insert some of our separation technologies at a point in the pond process just before they start to see those huge losses.

And, you capture some of that and increase the output from existing pond infrastructure. we filed patents around all of that cuz nobody else is doing that or had thought of that. I think that’s would be a huge win for, a small number of companies. Like there’s only, call it five to seven companies that have built extensive pond infrastructure.

You have s q m, Alba Alchem, liven, lithium Americas, and Y L B. But those are the major players right now, and if you can double or triple their output from the existing ponds with the same amount of brine that enters the ponds system, that’s a huge economic windfall for those companies.

Antoine Walter: Economic windfall plus also. Possibly eliminating one of the bottlenecks, which might be the water.

Teague Egan: Yeah.

Antoine Walter: just noted some of the big names I saw in your corporate deck. So there was all cam and there was Suez who I’d like to understand. And there are the third one. So what’s what you’re working on with all Camm and Suez?

Teague Egan: So those were earlier partnerships in our development. We did testing for CHE about two years ago. And we had great re. Results. But they are still trying to figure out which d l e technology they wanna move forward with. As for suez, we had a term sheet with them to help us figure out some of the initial phases of our membrane extraction process.

And they were extremely helpful in thinking through. Some of the early designs for our electrodialysis and bipolar electrodialysis are, that’s complicated for our membrane processing units. But we’re no longer working with them. We’ve basically taken everything in-house both those companies were instrumental to the beginnings of EnergyX and, you know, I’m eternally grateful. But we’ve kind of gone out on our own and are figuring out relationships with other customers outside of Alcom and our own in-house manufacturing of membranes and the ancillary equipment that holds membranes for processing.

Antoine Walter: So there’s a third big name in that corporate deck, which is maybe more catered towards your future, which is Global Emerging Markets Group, and there’s a very big number associated to that name, which is 450 million that they committed. What’s the deal there and what does it enable you to do?

Teague Egan: Yeah, global Emerging Markets is a great company that helps Companies like ours that are operating in emerging markets gives us access to capital upon a public listing. this was actually the biggest deal that global emerging markets has ever done. I think that so, in that we’re in the, you know, one of the hottest sectors in Lithium.

That’s one of the biggest emerging markets we’re operating in countries. Like Bolivia, Argentina, Chile, they’re also emerging markets. So it really fit their thesis very nicely. And they basically came to us and said, look, if you guys go public, we will commit 450 million after you’re publicly listed.

So, was a huge vote of confidence for us. And we obviously want to go public at the right time. But you know, having that kind of backstop and commitment gives me some comfort and confidence when I go to bed at night.

Antoine Walter: When you say right time, do you already have some ideas which you could share?

Teague Egan: Not specifically, right now we are in the phase of moving from the pilot that we launched in the field to larger demonstration plants. So the pilot that we did was a relatively small pilot that could only process a couple tons of lithium per year. And that’s not quite big enough to move to a full commercial plant that could say process 10, 20, 50,000 tons.

So these next larger demonstration plants that we’re building. Can process a hundred tons of lithium per year and from all the customers that we’ve talked to that we’re continuing to test and scale up with a hundred tons capacity is the right size that would enable us to go straight to full commercialization from that point.

Antoine Walter: That’s lithium hydroxide.

Teague Egan: yeah, lithium hydroxide or lithium carbonate, either one.

Antoine Walter: Sorry, did want to cut you off just to be clear.

Teague Egan: we want to have at least crossed this demonstration plant threshold and be on our way to building a few large commercial production plants before we go public. That’s at least my mindset right now.

Antoine Walter: Your timeline to commercial plans, if I’m right, is for 2024. 2025.

Teague Egan: Yep.

Antoine Walter: You say a couple or a bunch or several of them. If you had to take a totally open bet, which is not binding in any kind of ways, where would you see the first commercial plant?

Teague Egan: Oh man. I don’t know. You know, I think that there are some great opportunities that are on our plate right now. I think that it’ll be between one of three places, either Argentina, Chile, or the United States.

Antoine Walter: One of your demo in between is gonna be at the Salton Sea, right?

Teague Egan: we’re, in the process of building a demonstration plant for the Salton Sea right now.

Antoine Walter: So one of those or another, who knows opportunities can come up actually. I try to be cautious every time. I see that you have a broad roadmap for the future, which means to me that there would be more opportunities to have that conversation again when you have new milestones to share. I have a last question for you in that deep dive, which is actually for my investigation of lithium, I’ve made a testing the water, which is 10 kilometers from my home, and we used to have potash mines It’s history thing and there’s water there with highly chi content. Pretty high.

Teague Egan: How high?

Antoine Walter: 4,000 ppm.

Teague Egan: Oh, wow.

Antoine Walter: I suspect that was an outlier. I would expect the average to be around 400 ppm. So let’s assume 400 ppm. I looked a bit magnesium. There is some magnesium. There’s. Less than at the Salton Sea. But there is, I mean, I looked a bit at Scavengers. My question here is I obviously don’t have a company, I don’t intend to start a company, but in the Hypothe thesis, I would have this ambition.

I dunno if you’ve seen, but recently India just found out that they have a bunch of lithium and that maybe they are the fifth largest reserve in the world, and nobody knew so. You have this Greenfield projects, what is the approach to them? Would they call a company like you? Would they start their own thing?

How do you fit into that ecosystem?

Teague Egan: They would most likely start working with a company like ours who specializes in the extraction refinery of Lithium. Unless they wanted to go figure out how to do it all themselves which is. Most likely, you know, not the case. They would either license technology or get a company to come in and build, own and operate a plant.

And then there would be some sort of licensing deal or profit sharing deal on the lithium that’s produced between the company that’s extracting it and refining it and getting the product and whoever owns the resource.

Antoine Walter: So the day I create my potash company, I give you a call and we can see how we figured that out. Maybe that’s your first commercial plan. You don’t know.

Teague Egan: You never know.

Antoine Walter: To round up this interview, I have rapid fire questions. I’ll take just three of them.

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Rapid fire questions:

Antoine Walter: what is the most exciting project you’ve been working on and why?

Teague Egan: The most exciting project I’ve been working on is Scaling the technology for the demonstration plants working on stuff in the lab is exciting in its own way, but then seeing these systems come to life in, big equipment and machinery that actually gets deployed to the field is.

You know, just the next level of exciting. So, you know, we’re right in the middle of scaling these systems to like large tanks and large mixers and large vats and things like that, that we’re deploying to the field. And that to me is pretty cool.

Antoine Walter: Can you name one thing that you learned the hard way?

Teague Egan: Yeah, don’t be late turning in reports.

Antoine Walter: I would expect that one. And last one, would you have someone to recommend me that I should definitely talk with?

Teague Egan: Yeah, I think that you should talk with our VP of Battery Technology, Nick Grish. He’s he knows, obviously way more than me about batteries. So if you’re interested in batteries, I would talk to him. If you’re interested in talking more about lithium extraction as related to this story, I would say that somebody I would talk to is our president of South America.

A gentleman named Juan Carlos Burrera. He spent 30 years at S Q M half of which he was their senior Vice President of lithium operations. He literally built their entire evaporation pond system, 44 million square meters of evaporation ponds, as well as all, all of their lithium processing facilities to get to lithium carbonate lithium hydroxide.

So for batteries, our guy Nick, and for lithium our guy Juan Carlos.

Antoine Walter: It sounds like you really have the Avengers team working with you on all those stuff. So impressive. Well, Teague it’s been a pleasure to do a bit of that exploration with you. I’d be delighted to have you back or to have the two suggestions you had on the microphone to explore a bit further up and down the value stream.

And yeah, I wish you all the best in the next demo and commercial plan because one of those we will be doing together. Just that, you know.

Teague Egan: Yep. Perfect! Thanks Antoine.

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