Albemarle to expand lithium refining in Australia
The American speciality chemicals company Albemarle has announced a doubling of the production capacity of its Kemerton lithium hydroxide plant in Western Australia. Instead of 50,000 tonnes per year, the plant will be able to produce 100,000 tonnes of lithium hydroxide at full capacity.
This will support the production of an estimated 2.4 million electric vehicles per year, the company said. The expansion, which is expected to hire around 370 more employees by 2026, will make Albemarle the largest lithium producer in Australia, according to the company.
Specifically, two additional processing trains are to be built in Kemerton – on top of the two existing trains on site. The announcement does not specify how much the US company will invest in the expansion. It only says that it is “the largest investment by a company in the downstream processing of lithium in Australia”.
The material that will be processed into battery-grade lithium hydroxide at the Kemerton plant, which has been under construction since 2019, comes from the Greenbushes mine, also in Australia. This is an open-pit hard rock mine located approximately 250km south of Perth, Western Australia, and 90km south-east of the Port of Bunbury, a major transhipment port in the south-west of Western Australia.
“Australia is essential to the global supply chain for energy storage and an important part of our diverse portfolio,” says Albemarle CEO Kent Masters. “Our decision to expand was driven by our confidence in future demand and allows us to offer customers additional supply from Greenbushes, well known as one of the world’s best lithium mines.”
The chemical company had also announced a new lithium processing plant in the US in March. This plant will be built in Chester County in South Carolina from late 2024. It will initially produce about 50,000 tonnes of battery-grade lithium hydroxide annually, with the capacity to expand to up to 100,000 tonnes later.