Albemarle, a U.S.-based specialty chemical company, will add 50,000 metric tons of mineral conversion production capacity to boost battery grade lithium production (including lithium carbonate and lithium hydroxide). Citing the growing needs of the energy storage market, especially for customers in the global transportation industry that use lithium ion battery technology, Albemarle intends the expansion to further solidify its cost leadership position in the growing market for lithium carbonate and lithium hydroxide
The company is evaluating potential sites in the U.S. and Asia for the new plant, which is scheduled to become operational in 2020. The plant is expected to come on stream in multiple phases and will source spodumene ore, a source of high-purity ore, from Albemarle's joint venture in Greenbushes, Australia.
"Albemarle recognizes the significant energy storage movement globally and views this plan as the logical next step in our continued support of leading companies in the transportation, consumer devices and renewable energy industries,” said Albemarle CEO Luke Kissam. “By expanding our production capabilities, we will be prepared to meet the growing market-driven demand for high-quality, battery grade lithium products as our customers in the global transportation and energy infrastructure industries innovate to utilize energy more efficiently and effective.”
In 2014, the global battery market was estimated at $54 billion. More expensive battery cells are gaining ground, as well. Lithium-ion, lithium polymer, and lithium-iron cells are usually integrated into portable electronics, while other cells in the mix comprise zinc-carbon, zinc-chloride, zinc-air, silver oxide, lead-acid, nickel-hydrogen and sodium-sulfur. The global lithium-ion market was predicted to reach more than $11 billion and $13.4 billion in 2013 and 2018, respectively, according to BCC Research.
Growing consumer demand hybrid and electric vehicles particularly bode well for sustained growth in the lithium-ion battery market. Market penetration of electric vehicles (EVs) and hybrid electric vehicles (HEVs), boosted by expanding regulatory requirements and consumer demand, will spur market growth through technological advancements and energy savings. Unit sales of passenger EVs is expected to drive the global electric vehicle market to reach $109.8 billion in 2019, reflecting a five-year (2014-2019) compound annual growth rate (CAGR) of 8.5%.
The field of electronics and electronic mobility also are driving big demand for lithium-ion batteries. Indeed, lithium-ion batteries were a hot topic last week at the International Congress for Battery Recycling ICBR 2015, where more than 200 delegates from the international battery recycling industry met in Switzerland for the two-day congress. In 2014, about 1.8 billion mobile telephones, 230 million tablets and 170 million notebooks were sold worldwide and the upward trend appears to be continuing, Recycling Today noted.
The site reported that “In the future, lithium-ion batteries are likely to be used in even more fields of application. The experts in Montreux were confident that this type would become increasingly popular in the fields of electric mobility and industrial applications.” By 2050, lithium-ion batteries will power some 43.4 million vehicles on roads worldwide, Hartmut Stahl, a senior researcher with the Institute of Applied Ecology, predicted in the article.
The global markets for batteries, especially lithium-ion batteries, is powering up.
Related BCC Research reports:
Lithium Batteries: Markets and Materials (FCB028F)
Electric Vehicle and Fuel Cell Power Sources: Technologies and Global Markets (FCB019E)
Large and Advanced Battery Technology and Markets (FCB024G)