Albemarle to expand Nevada lithium production facility

By Dominic Ellis
Move is in response to growing global demand as North American automotive manufacturers reorganise their supply chain for great security and sustainabil...

Albemarle Corporation, a leader in the global speciality chemicals industry, will expand capacity at the company’s lithium production facility in Silver Peak, Nevada.

It will also begin a program to evaluate clays and other available Nevada resources for the commercial production of lithium, a critical mineral in green mobility, and comes as North American automotive manufacturers are looking to reorganise their supply chain for greater security and sustainability.

As such, Albemarle’s investment in Silver Peak, which produces lithium from brine extracted from the Clayton Valley basin, will support this increased demand for domestic supply of lithium, the company says. 

The company plans to invest between $30 million and $50 million starting this year, to double current production at the Nevada site by 2025, making full use of its brine water rights.

Additionally, the corporation aims to commence exploration of clay and evaluate technology in 2021 which could accelerate the viability of lithium production from clay resources in the region. It also looking at ways to optimise lithium extraction from its brine resources, including those in the Clayton Valley. 

Through a Department of Energy-sponsored research project with Argonne National Laboratory, Albemarle it is investigating a process to streamline production of lithium hydroxide, which is principally used in EV batteries, from brine resources.

"As a leader in the lithium industry, our priority is to optimise our world-class resources and production. This includes Silver Peak, a site uniquely positioned as the only lithium-producing resource in the United States," says Eric Norris, Albemarle President, Lithium. 

"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'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 centre and piloting operations, as well as lithium-containing brines in Arkansas.

Demand for lithium is expected to surge in coming years as EV adoption picks up pace globally. Tesla, the US-based electric vehicle manufacturer, says that its production increased by 39.6 percent year-on-year in 2020, while sales rose by around 35.9 percent over the same period.

Demand for lithium hydroxide is expected to increase as the development of high-performance batteries improves, and vehicles with a longer driving range are brough to market, experts say.


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