Albemarle announces expansion plans at Nevada lithium extraction site

US-headquartered lithium producer Albemarle Corp will double lithium carbonate output at its brine-sourced production facility, Silver Peak, based in Nevada, it said on Thursday January 7.

The lithium producer plans to invest $30-50 million starting this year to double the current lithium carbonate output at its Silver Peak facility by 2025 in support of an expected increase in lithium demand in the United States.

The company will also start an evaluation project for analyzing lithium extraction technologies in Nevada in 2021.

Albermarle is also undertaking an investigation as part of a research project sponsored by the US Department of Energy (DOE) exploring ways to streamline production of lithium hydroxide from brine resources.

Lithium is a critical raw material used in lithium-ion batteries that power electric vehicles (EV), energy storage systems and portable consumer electronics.

Albemarle’s announcement comes alongside the shift to greener mobility and North American automotive manufacturers seek to regionalize their supply chains amid increased scrutiny around security of supply and sustainability of lithium extraction.

US-based EV manufacturer Tesla In September 2020 announced during its Battery Day its plan to manufacture battery cells in-house to aid its expansion plans.

Demand for the raw material is expected to surge in the coming years while EV adoption gains pace across the world.

For example, Tesla production increased by around 39.6% year on year in 2020, while sales rose by around 35.9% over the same period, in line with the company’s guidance.

Market participants expect demand for lithium hydroxide to increase in the coming years, coinciding with the development of higher performance batteries and vehicles with a longer driving range.

Fastmarkets’ lithium hydroxide monohydrate 56.5% LiOH.H2O min, battery grade, spot price cif China, Japan & Korea stood at $8.50-9.50 per kg on Thursday January 7, down from $9.50-11 per kg on January 9, 2020.

Fastmarkets’ battery raw materials research team said it sees the relative weakness in hydroxide prices as being temporary and expects fast growth in demand for high-nickel ratio batteries, especially in the European and US markets, to absorb the increase in hydroxide supply before too long.

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