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The world's largest lithium producer Albemarle has announced plans to expand a lithium processing facility in Australia, boosting its production capacity twofold to 100,000 tons of lithium hydroxide annually.
"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," chief executive Ken Masters said, as quoted by the Wall Street Journal.
According to the company, annual production of 100,000 tons of lithium would be enough to manufacture more than 2 million EV batteries.
Lithium processing capacity is critical for the forecast boom in EV uptake, as expressed by Tesla's Elon Musk last month. Addressing the earnings call's audience, the Tesla CEO warned that the U.S. needs more processing capacity for lithium.
"The choke point is much more on refining capacity than it is on mining. Lithium is actually is very common throughout the world, including in the US," Musk said, as quoted by Yahoo Finance. "It's much more a question of where is the refining capacity and can the refining capacity keep up."
"Like, instead of making a picture sharing app, please refine lithium. Mining and refining, heavy industry, come on," he also said, targeting his fellow businessmen.
The United States sees annual lithium hydroxide production of some 20,000 tons annually, according to the CEO of Piedmont Lithium. Also according to him, this would need to rise to more than 700,000 tons by the second half of this decade to satisfy demand.
We need more of both," Keith Phillips said. "We need more refinery capacity, obviously. Because you can't make a battery with [rocks]. You need refined chemicals. And the desperate need — I think — is for more raw material out of the ground. And the more of that we can produce in the US the better."
By Irina Slav for Oilprice.com
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Irina is a writer for Oilprice.com with over a decade of experience writing on the oil and gas industry.