UK’s first lithium refinery to support adoption of EVs

Green Lithium has announced that it will build the UK’s first large-scale lithium refinery at PD Ports, in Teesside, UK – providing security of supply to safeguard the UK’s and EU’s automotive and battery manufacturing industries.

The construction of the refinery will help drive the UK’s levelling up agenda as well as supporting local and regional development. Development and construction of the facility will drive significant growth and investment into the local area, creating over 1,000 jobs during the construction phase and 250 full-time local and highly-skilled green jobs once in operation. Construction is expected to take three years and the plant will be commissioned during 2025.

The refinery will provide annual production of c.50,000 tonnes of low-carbon, battery-grade lithium chemicals that will help meet Europe’s growing demand. Green Lithium’s product will go into the supply chain for lithium-ion batteries, energy storage, grid stabilisation and EV batteries. For example, the forecast level of annual production will enable the production of roughly 1 million EVs in a European market producing over 15 million by 2030.

Green Lithium is committed to transforming the refining process, historically a dirty supply chain component by establishing leading ESG credentials, targeting net zero on Scope 1 and 2 emissions by 2035 whilst working with supply chain partners to minimise Scope 3 emissions and reducing its carbon footprint to significantly lower than existing international refineries. The refining process at Teesside will have a carbon footprint 80% lower than the traditional processes currently used internationally, with a carbon intensity of only 3.3kg of CO2 emitted per kg of lithium hydroxide produced compared with the international average of 16.2kg.

This will be achieved through integrating low-energy processes with renewable electricity and by ensuring the refining plant is capable of utilising hydrogen gas and is carbon capture enabled.

Sean Sargent, Chief Executive Officer of Green Lithium, said: “Green Lithium’s vision is to support the acceleration of adoption of EVs and sustainable energy storage by increasing the supply of low carbon lithium chemicals, enabling the planet’s transition to sustainable energy. 

“There is currently no lithium refining capability in Europe; localised lithium refining is urgently required to meet the exponential growth of European demand and protect against uncertainty from precarious international supply chains. Without localised supply Europe’s battery energy storage and automotive sectors will fail.

“Critically Green Lithium will use a world-leading, sustainable and low-carbon refining process, which has an 80% lower carbon footprint than traditional refineries in existing markets.”

Currently, 89% of the globe’s hard-rock lithium is processed in East Asia, with domestic demand expected to outstrip its production output by 2030. As such the UK and EU’s reliance on international sources for their refined lithium chemical imports is creating uncertainty over security of supply, price and volume.

These factors underline the reasons why the UK Government made lithium a key part of its Critical Minerals Strategy in 2022. By 2030, the overall European market alone will require 800,000 tonnes of refined lithium per year, as the annual gigafactory output of Europe’s top 5 lithium battery makers is set to grow by +28%. Green Lithium is seizing the opportunity presented by Europe’s future high demand, and potential future uncertainty in the Chinese market, by building a refinery that will enable the growth of localised battery and electric vehicle industries in the UK and the EU.

Claire Blanchelande, Head of Lithium at Trafigura, commented: “Lithium is fast becoming more of the world’s most important commodities for the energy transition and Green Lithium’s refinery will be one of the few ready by the middle of this decade when we see demand for electric vehicles picking up in a very significant way in the UK and Europe. We look forward to working with Green Lithium to help source its raw materials and market its output of lithium hydroxide.”

Frans Calje, Chief Executive OF PD Ports, said: “PD Ports is delighted that Green Lithium has chosen Teesport as the base for this project which holds such national importance.

“We cannot lose momentum on our commitment, as a country, to reach Net Zero by 2050. Within PD Ports, sustainability is right at the top of our agenda, and we are on-track to reach our ambitious target of carbon-neutrality across our Tees operations by just 2027.

“We look forward to working alongside Green Lithium on this project which will, in turn, deliver our shared ambitions of levelling up the Tees Valley, creating real, sustainable jobs and driving a low-carbon economy.”

Grant Shapps, Secretary of State for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy, noted: “We’re backing companies, like Green Lithium here in Teesside, to grow the new, green industries across the UK, sparking jobs and growth for decades to come.

“This is levelling up in action. The refinery will deliver more than 1,000 jobs during its construction and 250 long-term, high-skill jobs for local people when in operation. It is also allowing us to move quickly to secure our supply chains of critical minerals, as we know that geopolitical threats and global events beyond our control can severely impact the supply of key components that could delay the rollout of electric vehicles in the UK.”

Image courtesy of Shutterstock.

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