I just lately talked with Mangrove Lithium CEO and cofounder Dr. Saad Dara about lithium assets, lithium refining, and localization of the EV battery provide chain for an additional episode of CleanTech Discuss.
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In his preliminary PhD work, Dr. Dara was centered on water desalination and remedy for the oil and gasoline sector or the mining sector, however then as he and his group seemed into spinning out an organization based mostly on this work, they shortly realized that water remedy was a really troublesome market to interrupt into. In talks with potential shoppers, nonetheless, somebody requested them if they might convert their lithium chloride into lithium hydroxide. And that was primarily the beginning of what would turn out to be Mangrove Lithium and its lithium refining and processing enterprise. There’s extra about Dr. Dara and the founding group within the podcast, however let’s leap to the worldwide lithium market and his tackle the truth that, presently, the overwhelming majority of lithium refining takes place in China. Right here’s his abstract of the scenario and the place we’re headed:
“I believe 70% of the world’s lithium is Argentina, Chile, Bolivia, and Australia — one thing like that,” he famous, “however whenever you discuss downstream chemical refining onwards within the lithium provide chain, I believe over 80% of that exists in China — for good causes. They’ve an enormous market, they’ve an enormous quantity of demand. The remainder of the world’s slightly bit behind on that demand.” Certainly — greater than 50% of the world’s EV gross sales are in China. “However they’ve actually been capable of dominate the market […] they’re doing loads of the downstream lithium provide chain — from chemical course of refining, anode/cathode manufacturing, finish use — and North America and Europe are attempting to atone for that, however that’s the place the business is true now.
“So, there’s been loads of discuss probably creating native provide chains for EVs, or native provide chains for anode/cathode manufacturing. In our view, if many of the world’s refining is in China, you possibly can deliver all of the battery merchandise you need over right here, however your product will nonetheless should go there after which come right here. So, what have you ever actually onshored?”
Mangrove Lithium presently has operations in Vancouver and is working towards constructing their first lithium refining crops in america. However Dr. Dara then brings up a difficulty that common CleanTech Discuss listeners or CleanTechnica readers will probably be aware of. “I’ll say this: proper now the bottleneck is that there’s not sufficient lithium being produced on the mine stage. However as an increasing number of lithium does get produced from the mine stage, refining capability elsewhere will probably be extra vital, particularly as we glance to be much less depending on the Asian markets.” (Recall that other than China, massive battery manufacturing firms and services are in South Korea.)
We additionally talked slightly bit concerning the geopolitical points surrounding this matter, and Dr. Dara famous, amongst different issues, that the Canadian Division of Protection was even contemplating funding mines. Then he added, “From our view, what we actually wish to do in our long-term technique is to say that we’re going to construct refining capability utilizing our core expertise, which is electrochemical, in North America and in Europe — in order that the product that is being shipped, you recognize, to the Asian markets doesn’t essentially should be shipped there, that it could possibly be shipped right here, the place we’re.” That’s actually what policymakers and residents of those Western nations want to see.
“The opposite side of that’s that we do plan on being built-in at a mine stage in South America or in Australia. And that gives extra choices to the market.” That’s one other logical possibility, possibly an much more environment friendly and logical one from an goal standpoint.
That mainly covers the primary quarter of our dialog. For extra — together with speak across the value of lithium, extra vertical integration at automakers, lithium mining, the broader battery provide chain, the place Mangrove Lithium is seeking to function within the USA, the Inflation Discount Act of 2022, and extra — hearken to the total podcast. If you happen to choose Spotify over SoundCloud, right here’s an embedded Spotify participant:
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