WEBINAR: Dynamic modelling of SQM’s solar pond operations

Efficient planning of SQM’s solar pond operations for Lithium production using dynamic simulation

SQM, a global mining company operating in northern Chile, is a world leader in production of lithium and potassium salts using caliche and brines from Salar de Atacama. These salts are extracted from brines are found in the middle of the Salar de Atacama using solar evaporation pond networks. These brines contain the world’s highest known concentrations of lithium and potassium, as well as considerable concentrations of sulphate and boron. Upon extraction, the salts and brine are processed in chemical plants to obtain the final products such as lithium carbonate and potassium chloride.


The solar evaporation pond systems have residence time of months and are subject to high level of uncertainty due to changing climate and process conditions. It is critical for SQM to quantify the effect of these uncertainties as well as change in operating conditions on the production yield forecasts. Hence, SQM built models of their solar evaporation pond networks using gPROMS platform to carry out dynamic simulations of their processes using mechanistic modelling. SQM have been modelling several cases and scenarios over the past 15 years using these models to

  • Understand the influence of well mixture on efficiency and production of lithium carbonate & potassium chloride
  • Evaluate the impact of change in operation conditions on ponds system
  • Study the effect of seasonality in brine & salt chemistry


The analysis carried out using the results of the modelling work has helped SQM with

  • Improving accuracy of production estimates for potassium salts and lithium carbonate
  • Efficient planning of pond harvesting schedule
  • Efficient planning of pond filling schedule during system expansion 

What this webinar covers

  • Overview of SQM solar evaporation pond operations at Salar de Atacama, the challenges associated with it and motivation to use dynamic modelling for forecasting process yields
  • Few case studies describing how modelling was used by SQM to make process decisions
  • Overview of the benefits derived by SQM from using mechanistic modelling 


29th  September 2022 - delivered in English, 09:00 CLT/13:00 GMT



45 minutes plus Q&A


Jaime Robertson


Jaime Robertson is the Head of New Technologies at SQM. He earned his B.Sc. in Chemical Engineering from Universidad de Chile. Jaime has over 15 years’ experience in solar pond processes and their modelling.