The Northeast of England has set a presence for growth. With the development of Britishvolt’s gigafactory taking place, and now a green lithium refinery expected, the region will be home to a significant. percentage of lithium and batteries for the electric vehicle (EV) industry.
The refinery will be backed by the commodities trading firm, Trafigura, and will be operated by Green Lithium. The refinery will receive £600mn to supply more materials to the battery industry, while also making the process more sustainable.
The refinery will be based in Teesside and will boost the EV supply chain as the industry grows rapidly—increasing the demand for battery production.
The plant will aim to increase employment by adding 1,000 jobs, all of which will be critical in extracting enough lithium hydroxide to power one million EVs every year. Operating in the same area as Britishvolt (featuring in our December magazine issue), the level of talent is set to increase rapidly thanks to the number of EV-related jobs created.
Why does the EV industry need more lithium?
Growth is the simple answer, but it’s really a question of future planning. The EV industry is already disrupted by supply chain issues, whether that is lithium or other critical components. Having seen the impacts now, it’s clear that the automotive demand for batteries is only going to increase year-on-year.
Companies need more lithium, but also need it to be more accessible. Around 90% of global lithium comes from Asia, which is not only restrictive for western manufacturers, but there are options for greener lithium through the use of localised, sustainable extraction.
Green Lithium says the extraction process at the Teesside site will benefit from 80% less carbon emissions than the traditional lithium process.
The Head of Lithium at Trafigura, Claire Blanchelande, says: “Green Lithium’s refinery will be one of the few ready by the middle of this decade when we see demand for electric vehicles picking up in a very significant way in the UK and Europe.”
As the backer of the project, Trafigura experienced record H1 profits in 2022, reaching US$2.7bn (£2.4bn), following Russia’s invasion of Ukraine—which led to high volatility across commodity trading markets.