Albemarle Corp. recently announced plans to double capacity at its lithium mine in Nevada in response to burgeoning demand from electric vehicles. Lithium is also a key ingredient for the grease industry.
Approximately three-quarters of grease produced globally contains simple lithium soap or lithium complex thickeners.
Albemarle said its investment in Silver Peak, which produces lithium from brine extracted from the Clayton Valley basin, will support increased demand for domestic supply of lithium. The company noted that North American automotive manufacturers are seeking to regionalize their supply chain for greater security and sustainability, as global demand for EVs grows.
Starting this year, the company plans to invest $30 million to $50 million to double output at the Nevada site by 2025, making full use of its brine water rights. This year Albemarle also plans to commence exploration of clay and evaluate technology that could accelerate the viability of lithium production from clay resources in the region.
“As a leader in the lithium industry, our priority is to optimize our world-class resources and production,” Eric Norris, president of the company’s lithium business, said in a news release. “This includes Silver Peak, a site uniquely positioned as the only lithium-producing resource in the United States. This investment in domestic capacity shows that we are committed to looking at the many ways in which Silver Speak can provide domestic support for the growing EV market.”
Albemarle said it is seeking ways to optimize lithium extraction from its brine resources, including those in the Clayton Valley. Through a United States Department of Energy-sponsored research project with Argonne National Laboratory, the company is investing in a process to streamline production of lithium hydroxide from brine resources. Lithium hydroxide is used in EV batteries, and it is also the most common of several key ingredients that can be used to make soaps that are mixed with oil to thicken greases.
The company’s other domestic lithium resources include its 800-acre Kings Mountain, North Carolina site, one of the richest spodumene ore deposits in the world and home to Albemarle’s global lithium technical center and piloting operations. Spodumene concentrate is the precursor raw material for lithium carbonate and lithium hydroxide. The company also has lithium-containing brines in Arkansas.
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