As global demand for electric vehicles (EV) grows, North American automotive manufacturers are seeking to regionalize their supply chain for greater security and sustainability.
Beginning in 2021, the world’s largest lithium producer plans to invest $30 million to $50 million to double the current production at the Nevada site by 2025, making full use of its brine water rights.
Albemarle plans to begin exploration this year of clay and evaluate technology that could accelerate the viability of lithium production from clay resources in the region.
The investment would expand the operation to 10-kilo tonnes (kt) of lithium carbonate equivalent from 5 kt, BMO Capital Markets analyst Joel Jackson told Reuters.
“The motivation would seem clearly to be to bulk up its US operations as lithium and EVs become of more strategic importance this decade, particularly perhaps under the new green-friendly Biden administration,” Jackson said.
President-elect Joe Biden has promised to make tackling climate change one of the pillars of his incoming administration, a plan that includes rapid promotion of EV technologies.
“This investment in domestic capacity shows that we are committed to looking at the many ways in which Silver Peak can provide domestic support for the growing EV market,” Albemarle president Eric Norris said in the media release.
In addition to examining clay resources, Albemarle is seeking ways to optimize lithium extraction from its brine resources. The company is investigating a process to streamline the production of lithium hydroxide, which is principally used in EV batteries, from brine resources.
Albemarle’s domestic resources also include the historic 800-acre Kings Mountain, N.C., lithium site, which is one of the richest spodumene ore deposits in the world and home to the company’s global lithium technical center and piloting operations, as well as lithium-containing brines in Arkansas.
The company is also moving forward with expansion projects at Kemerton in Western Australia and La Negra in Chile, both of which it expects to commission this year.
Midday Tuesday, Albemarle’s stock was up nearly 6% on the NYSE. The company has a $19 billion market capitalization.