The money, awarded under the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law, will help develop the domestic supply chain for EV battery materials

WRITTEN BY: Michael Ouellette
PUBLISHED: Oct 23, 2022

Battery materials company American Battery Technology Co. (ABTC) has been awarded a $57 million grant to expand domestic manufacturing of battery grade lithium hydroxide for lithium-ion batteries for electric vehicles. The project will focus on domestic processing of materials and components that are currently imported from foreign countries.

The funding was awarded from the Department of Energy (DOE) under the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law.

Reno, Nev.-based ABTC and its partners—DuPont Water Solutions, University of Nevada, Reno, and Argonne National Laboratory—will match the $57 million with in-kind work on this project to design, build and run a commercial scale facility to demonstrate its process for the manufacturing battery cathode grade lithium hydroxide from lithium-bearing sedimentary resources in Nevada.

If the company can show this new low-cost and low-environmental impact process can be successful at commercial scale, the domestic-U.S. lithium resource base can be expanded and close the loop on the U.S. battery manufacturing supply chain. Once complete, the plant is expected to produce 5,000 metric tonnes of lithium hydroxide per year (MT LiOH/year) with plans to increase the capacity to 30,000 MT LiOH/year.

“The U.S. has unfortunately been essentially a non-player in the lithium manufacturing industry in recent decades,” said ABTC chief executive officer Ryan Melsert in a statement. “While the nation has established large amounts of multi-billion-dollar electrical vehicle and lithium-ion battery factories in recent years, nearly 100 percent of the lithium materials that feed these facilities are imported from foreign countries.”

Currently, most lithium products manufactured globally use conventional brines or hard rock ores as feedstock material, and less than one per cent of these lithium products are sourced from within the U.S.

This grant accelerates progress on the demonstration and facility commercialization efforts already underway, as ABTC, in collaboration with DuPont and the University of Nevada, Reno, was awarded a $4.5M grant from the US Department of Energy in 2021 to run a demonstration-scale system to prove the process.

“American Battery Technology Co. is demonstrating tremendous leadership in the development of technologies and a new energy economy on the campus of the University of Nevada, Reno,” said University President Brian Sandoval. “Through the creation of jobs and internships, they are giving new experiences to our students and contributing to the preparedness and diversity of our future scientists and the nation.”

According to the United States Geological Survey (USGS), just 11 facilities accounted for the majority of world lithium production in 2021. These include: four mineral operations in Australia, two brine operations each in Argentina and Chile, and two brine and one mineral operation in China. Smaller operations in Brazil, China, Portugal, the U.S., and Zimbabwe also contributed to world lithium production.

Lithium supply security has become a top priority for governments and technology companies in Asia, Europe, and the U.S. Brine-based lithium sources were in various stages of development in Argentina, Bolivia, Chile, China, and the U.S.; mineral-based lithium sources were in various stages of development in Australia, Austria, Brazil, Canada, China, Congo (Kinshasa), Czechia, Finland, Germany, Mali, Namibia, Peru, Portugal, Serbia, Spain, the U.S., and Zimbabwe; lithium-clay sources were in various stages of development in Mexico and the U.S.

S&P Global market Intelligence forecasts that lithium total cash costs will continue rising in 2022, with increased royalties being a major contributor to rising prices. S&P Global Commodity Insights forecast the lithium carbonate price in 2022 to more than triple that of 2021.

Data Bridge Market Research estimates the lithium compound market to reach $28.93 billion by 2029, from $6.40 billion in 2021, registering a compound annual growth rate (CAGR) of 20.75 per cent during that period.

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