Lithium projects galore

I’ve been seeing a lot of investments this year on lithium-related production capacity coming from the chemical industry especially here in the US.

Today, BASF broke ground on a $50+ million facility in Elyria, Ohio, to produce Nickel-Cobalt-Manganese (NCM) cathode materials for lithium-ion batteries that can power hybrid and full-electric vehicles. The investment has the help of $24.6 million grant from the Department of Energy (DOE) under the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act.

BASF said it expects the plant to be the most advanced cathode materials production plant in North America when it is fully operational in 2012.

In October 5, Rockwood initiated the expansion of its battery-grade lithium hydroxide production operations in Kings Mountain, North Carolina. The plant is being built at the existing Chemetall Foote Kings Mountain production site, which currently produces other lithium salts and lithium metal for primary batteries.

The project is expected to be complete in 2012. This is also funded in part by a $28.4 million grant from the DOE.

Rockwood’s Chemetall business is also currently expanding its lithium carbonate production operation in Silver Peak, Nevada, funded partly by a $28.4m grant from the DOE. This project is expected to be completed in 2013.

On June 21, Dow Chemical’s Dow Kokam business broke ground for a new lithium ion batteries production facility in Midland, Michigan. The first phase of construction, supported by a $161m DOE grant, will produce batteries with target capacity of 600m watt hours. Total battery capacity of 1.2bn watt hours is expected after completion of the facility.

First battery batch produced are expected in early 2012. Dow Kokam, by the way, is owned by The Dow Chemical Company, TK Advanced Battery LLC and Groupe Industriel Marcel Dassault.

German chemical company Sud-Chemie invested this year EUR60 million ($82.6m) in lithium iron phosphate (LFP) production in Candiac, Quebec, a site owned by its subsidiary Phostech Lithium.

Commercial production for series delivery will start in 2012 to reach a rate of 2,500 tons per year. Sud-Chemie said this volume will allow the production of approximately 50,000 all-electric automobiles or, alternatively, up to 500,000 vehicles with hybrid drive per year.

Because of high demand, Süd-Chemie is also planning to expanding its production capacity for LFP at its site in Moosburg, Germany. The company is already currently manufacturing up to 300 tons/year of LFP at this site.

By the way, Ford said it has selected Compact Power Inc. (CPI), a wholly owned subsidiary of LG Chem, this year as the supplier of lithium-ion battery packs for the 2011 Ford Focus Electric for the U.S. market

CPI, based in Troy, Mich., will begin battery pack assembly for the Focus Electric next year and is finalizing production site selection in the U.S. The lithium-ion cells initially will be manufactured in Korea by CPI parent company LG Chem. LG Chem and CPI will be localizing cell production at their new site in Holland, Michigan.

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