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Study outlines supply chain challenges for lithium

A doctoral student in engineering management at Missouri University of Science and Technology, Ona Egbue, is studying potential disruptions to the long-term supply chain for lithium.

A combination of high fuel costs, concerns about petroleum availability and air quality issues related to fossil fuel-based vehicles are driving interest in electric vehicles. However, there are issues associated with the present supply chain of raw materials for battery production, particularly the security and supply of lithium.

—Ona Egbue

The US is a major importer of lithium. The majority of known lithium reserves are located in China, Chile, Argentina and Australia. Together these regions were also responsible for more than 90% of all lithium production in 2010, not including US production.

Due to political instability, there is a question of US access to materials produced in Bolivia, which holds the world’s largest lithium resource and has new production projects in the pipeline, she says.

In addition, the emergence of lithium as a strategic resource and the associated geopolitics is troubling, she says.

As China has demonstrated in recent years with rare-earth elements, a major raw material for nickel-metal hydride batteries, a country that supplies a resource can greatly affect the country that receives the resource. China, which controls more than 95 percent of global rare-earth elements supply, recently made a decision to restrict its export quota of this raw material, causing a significant increase in prices. This action by China highlights the risks of global dependence.

—Ona Egbue

Egbue has developed a supply chain model for lithium that demonstrates the connection between supply and demand and provides a framework with which to investigate the technical, geopolitical and economic factors that could potentially impact the supply of lithium for electric vehicles. She is working on the research with her advisor, Dr. Suzanna Long, assistant professor of engineering management and systems engineering at Missouri S&T. Her findings are published in the Engineering Management Journal’s special issue on transportation management this month.



We'll just have to bomb who ever refuses to supply lithium. It's been done with oil. What's so different about lithium.


M...it will be cheaper to buy the leaders/dictators of lithium producing countries like we use to do with Oil producing countries, at least until they woke up.

This looks a lot like 'Peak Oil' scare to bring the price up?



before writing stupidity you should compare the production curve over time of oil, Nat-gaz and coal, you will understand why peak oil is not a conspiracy theory, or maybe your not smart enough for that ?



No need to insult.


No but some keep repeating the same things here without much ground to support their shaky claims


Tree...peak CHEAP oil may be partly true but real peak oil is being pushed further down the calendar every year. Secondly, with the progressive arrival of more efficient aircraft, ships, locomotives, machines, ICEVs + HEVs, PHEVs and eventually BEVs and bio/alternative liquid fuels; the total crude oil consumption will soon peak and progressively go down.

The rise to 100M barrels/day did not happened and the slide towards 80M barrels/day is materializing. I overflew Saudi Arabia lately and (hundreds/thousands) huge crude oil open pools (up to 5 Km in diameter) were visible as far as you could see over the horizon, ready to be pumped. Many more, even larger pools were being prepared

Ten+ lithium mines have been found in Eastern Canada and will be exploited as soon as the price and consumption are high enough. Cheap lithium and cheap rare earths may not last forever but as the price goes up so will production. Multiple rare earths mixed with aluminum were found and are now being mined. Similar mines may open and many other places in the next few years.

So, Tree....instead of falling for Big Oil and Lithium PR, one may look deeper into reality and find out that the truth is often very different.

However, one thing we should stop is using edible food to produce fuel for our gas guzzlers while almost one billion people are going hungry. Corn/sugar cane ethanol are two very bad decisions for humanity. Many of the 47% will soon go hungry in USA as the price of food goes up another 25+% or so. That may be OK because they don't vote for the right party anyway?


Mann....USA's Secretary of States confirmed that USA will not invade Canada to grab its Oil, NG, Iron, Lithium, fresh water and other resources even if Canada starts to sell Oil and NG to China. We hope that she will still be around for many more years but we would not feel so save if another WB-like becomes Big Chief.

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