6 June 2023

Albemarle invests A$1bn in lithium hydroxide project expansion

Albemarle will invest A$1 billion in two new processing trains at its lithium hydroxide plant in Kemerton, Western Australia.

This investment, combined with the existing two trains at Kemerton owned under Albemarle’s joint venture with Mineral Resources, represents the biggest investment by any company in downstream processing of lithium in Australia. It will make Albemarle the largest producer of lithium in Australia.

When fully operational, the two new trains will double the plant’s forecast annual output by 50,000 metric tonnes to 100,000 metric tonnes per annum. This is enough lithium hydroxide to manufacture batteries for approximately 2.4 million electric vehicles. Construction is set to begin immediately, with the first train operational by 2026.

Albemarle is a significant employer in the region, with more than 480 operational staff. The company will need another 370 employees to operate the expanded project by 2026. The construction workforce for the expansion project is predicted to be about 1,000 workers.

‘Australia is essential to the global supply chain for energy storage and an important part of our diverse portfolio,’ says Albemarle CEO Kent Masters. ‘Our decision to expand was driven by our confidence in future demand and allows us to offer customers additional supply from Greenbushes, well known as one of the world’s best lithium mines.’

‘Kemerton is a world-class facility,’ adds Albemarle’s President of Energy Storage, Eric Norris. ‘We’re proud to be making another significant investment in downstream processing in Australia.’

Albemarle is a US specialty chemicals company with leading positions in lithium, bromine and refining catalysts. Its llithium hydroxide processing plant at Kemerton is the biggest and most modern plant of its kind in Australia.

An aerial view of a lithium hydroxide processing plant comprising a large number industrial buildings, roads, pipes and overhead steel walkways

Delivering on Australia’s Critical Minerals Strategy

Albemarle’s investment is a welcome vote of confidence in downstream lithium processing in Australia. It will help transform Australia from an exporter of lithium concentrate into a leading producer of lithium-based advanced materials used to enable renewable energy, e-mobility and smart grid power transmission.

The investment also aligns with the Australian Government’s Critical Minerals Strategy. It creates opportunities for Australia further along the lithium value chain and in high-tech industries. It bolsters the Australia-US critical minerals commercial relationship and aligns with mutual interests in diversifying the supply of critical minerals.

How Austrade helped

Albemarle approached Austrade in 2014 about potential investment opportunities in lithium and downstream processing into lithium hydroxide. Austrade supported Albemarle during the project identification, evaluation and planning phases. Austrade worked closely with Albemarle in the 18 months leading up to financial close in March 2019. Austrade was engaged by Albemarle in all elements of its plans and strategy delivery for the Kemerton project.

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