US FMC eyes doubling of lithium capacity at Salta facility

06 December 2011 18:14  [Source: ICIS news]

HOUSTON (ICIS)--FMC is evaluating a “significant expansion” of its lithium capacity at Salta, Argentina, potentially doubling it in stages, the US-based chemicals firms said on Tuesday.

The expansion would come in addition to a 30% expansion due on line in 2012, the company said.

FMC cites its lithium capacity in terms of total lithium carbonate equivalent. On that basis, FMC’s capacity at Salta is about 17,000 tonnes/year.

Salta is FMC’s source site for all lithium processed into finished lithium products worldwide. 

FMC also is evaluating an expansion of its lithium hydroxide and lithium metal production at Bessemer City, North Carolina, it said. 

The company did not disclose the potential cost of the expansions. According to analysts at US investment firm Jefferies, a doubling of FMC’s lithium capacity at Salta could cost up to $150m (€113m) and could come on stream by 2015 or 2016.

FMC, for its part, said it expects “on the order of 10% plus” annual growth in global lithium demand over the coming decade. 

“Given this strong growth, the challenges and costs to rapidly bring on new capacity, and the escalation in key raw materials, we expect market prices to rise,” it said.

The main driver of growth in the lithium market is the increasing use and adoption of lithium-based energy storage technology for consumer electronic products, electric vehicle transportation and electricity grid storage, the company said.

FMC said it is the world’s second-largest lithium producer, on a revenue basis, and the only producer fully integrated from lithium mine to lithium metal, and further to organolithiums.

In addition to its operations at Salta and Bessemer City, FMC has organolithium plants in England, China and India.

($1 = €0.75)

For more on FMC and other producers visit ICIS company intelligence

By: Stefan Baumgarten
+1 713 525 2653

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