‘The demand is off the scale’ says man behind plans to bring lithium hydroxide production to Teesside

The businessman at the back of plans to carry the United Kingdom’s first lithium hydroxide plant to Teesside Freeport says plans proceed apace as call for for the chemical compounds is “off the scale”.

Paul Atherley owns 50% of Alkemy Capital Investments percent and is non-executive chairman of the funding car at the back of Tees Valley Lithium – the corporate that objectives to carry a £216m manufacturing facility to Teesside Freeport that can produce the important chemical compounds utilized by electrical car battery makers.

He says the touted capability of approaching electrical car battery gigafactories – together with Britishvolt in Northumberland and Envision AESC in South Tyneside – is round 700GW, dwarfing the 75GW of put in electrical energy capability recently in the United Kingdom. But there are recently no manufacturers of the important thing part, lithium hydroxide, in Europe.

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And at the present time, China controls about 90% of the sector’s lithium hydroxide provide and it’s going to want a lot of this to meet its personal plans for carbon neutrality via 2060.

Competitors have additionally signalled plans for an identical vegetation in Germany and Portugal however Mr Atherley says Tees Valley Lithium is transferring temporarily, and advantages from Wilton International’s “plug and play” chemical compounds infrastructure and proximity to consumers.

Earlier this yr the company paid £50,000 for exclusivity rights to a 20-acre plot at Wilton International, owned via Sembcorp, and now it’s development a control staff with hopes the plant will probably be operational in past due 2023, ahead of ramping up capability to 2030 wherein level it might be generating 15% of the lithium hydroxide wanted via European electrical car makers.

In a contemporary presentation with Alkemy’s agents VSA Capital, he stated: “Companies that spend two years doing feasibility studies – all they’re doing really is improving the risk factor, the variability from something like 25% to 15% and that’s really to satisfy the bankers. If you’ve already decided your process routes and you’re already within a chemicals park, you don’t need to spend two years and $5m-$10m on a feasibility study because you’ve got known equipment suppliers into a known infrastructure.

“We’ll cross from elegance 4 instantly into feed – actually, we are already speaking to EPCM (engineering, procurement and development control) contractors, so we wouldn’t have that gigantic lengthy extend that you’d typically have.”

Mr Atherley is also chairman of Pensana Rare Earths plc, a metals supplier to the electric vehicle and wind turbine market. Pensana was part of the successful bid to bring a freeport to Humber – where it is creating a rare earth processing hub at Saltend Chemicals Park. Tees Valley Lithium’s aim – much like Pensana – is to provide an attractive alternative to global mining companies who may otherwise sell their products to China. Its facility is the start of the supply chain of vital elements used in offshore wind turbines and electric vehicles.

The raw material for lithium hydroxide is lithium spodumene, which only contains about 6% lithium. Currently, mining firms ship large quantities of spodumene to processing plants in China but Tees Valley Lithium’s model will take primary lithium sulphate of between 30-50% lithium which streamlines the process.

Electric vehicle batteries require extremely pure lithium hydroxide which means exacting standards of chemical processing are required. Mr Atherley described the process as “extra lab coats and computer systems than hi-vis and difficult hats”. At the moment Tees Valley Lithium has yet to sign any contracts for supply of the raw material but is looking to to sign up mining companies in the coming months.

Tees Valley Lithium could be supplied by miners as far afield as Australia, but there is also growing potential for sources closes to home including the discovery of “globally vital” lithium deposits in Cornwall.

Mr Atherley stated: “Here we’re looking to decarbonise the delivery trade however we are delivery 94% waste all over the world at the delivery trade – which already accounts for approximately 3% of the sector’s carbon emissions. It does not make a lot sense.”

He added: “Cornwall, and different firms in the United Kingdom – we expect where their product will cross to will probably be Tees Valley Lithium, relatively than delivery it the entire technique to China.”

Tees Valley Lithium plans staged production across four ‘trains’ – the first involving a process known as Glauber’s Salt Route – commonly used in China and Australia. It involves the raw material – lithium sulphate monohydrate (LSM) – being dissolved in water before impurities are removed in two stages.

The purified solution is then pumped to a lithium hydroxide reactor where caustic is added to create a chemical reaction. Some of the production trains will also use processes driven by wind power from the North Sea.

Mr Atherley hailed plans to connect Teesside to the Dogger Bank windfarm, with high voltage cables being laid and onshore converter stations being built just adjacent to the Wilton International site that Tees Valley Lithium could occupy. The move will give firms like them direct access to cheap power which can be temporarily stored in batteries onsite.

“The thrilling factor is if we will be able to get a low carbon footprint into the lithium hydroxide, that is precisely what the cathode energetic subject material makers need as a result of in the end, whilst you purchase automobiles in Europe, they’ll have an embedded carbon signature in them,” he said.

“That’s going to be the behavioural economics which might be going to power carbon out of the device. The European Union has already made that transparent with the carbon border adjustment mechanism.

“So, if we can sell a product that is low carbon and it’s on the doorstep of the cathode active material makers we are looking at potential premiums.”

A making plans utility for the Wilton International website online is because of be submitted this month, with approval anticipated via Tees Valley Lithium this summer season. The company will have the benefit of 5 years of industrial charges aid and reductions on land tax and stamp responsibility due to the website online’s Enterprise Zone standing.

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