Albemarle to double lithium capacity by 2025
In response to growing global demand for electric cars, Albemarle has announced an increase in capacity at its Silver Peak lithium production facility in the US state of Nevada. Albemarle will invest $30 million to $50 million to double production there by 2025.
Albemarle is a specialty chemicals company headquartered in Charlotte, North Carolina, and employs around 5,000 people worldwide. To strengthen its domestic value chain for the North American electric car market, Albemarle is making the aforementioned investment in Silver Peak starting this year. Lithium is extracted on site from brine in the Clayton Valley basin. Albemarle states that it will fully utilize its exploitation rights with the planned doubling of production. However, the company does not disclose the actual production level in its announcement.
Albemarle’s other domestic resources also include the Kings Mountain lithium mine in North Carolina and lithium-bearing brines in Arkansas. That aside, the company says it will begin testing clay this year and evaluating technologies that could accelerate the viability of lithium production from clay resources in the region. The company also plans to further streamline lithium extraction from brine as part of a Department of Energy-sponsored research project with Argonne National Laboratory.
Albemarle also extracts lithium internationally, most notably from the Salar de Atacama salt lake in Chile, where nearly a quarter of the world’s lithium is believed to be found. In spring 2018, the American company received permission to increase their lithium mining there from 60,000 to 80,000 tons to up to 140,000 tons annually. According to Reuters, Albemarle is one of two lithium miners allowed to operate on the coveted site. Currently, however, there is reportedly friction between the U.S. company and the permitting authorities.
Incidentally, Albemarle became a major corporation through an acquisition that was described in the U.S. in 2014 as the “largest deal in the history of the chemical industry.” At the time, the specialty chemicals group bought Rockwood, the world’s largest manufacturer of lithium products at the time, for a whopping $6.2 billion.