DOE awarding $1.6B to 11 battery materials separation and processing projects as part of $2.8B funding
The US Department of Energy (DOE) is awarding a combined $2.8 billion to 21 projects to expand domestic manufacturing of batteries for electric vehicles (EVs) and the electrical grid and for materials and components currently imported from other countries. (Earlier post.) Of that, $1.6 billion will go to 11 projects in the materials separation and processing segment of the supply chain. The awardees are:
Materials Separation & Processing (Anode Materials)
Anovion, Scaling the Domestic, US Owned and Operated Anode Supply Chain for Synthetic Graphite, $117,000,000. Anovion, with its partners, collaborators and stakeholders, will build 35,000 tons per annum of new synthetic graphite anode material capacity for lithium-ion batteries used in electric vehicles and critical energy storage applications.
This US-owned and operated manufacturing plant in northern Alabama will be the first of its size in North America. Anovion’s selected site has critical infrastructure in place that will allow for an accelerated timeline for the construction of the facility. This project will expand Anovion’s existing manufacturing capacity in Sanborn, NY—notably the only qualified US source of battery-grade synthetic graphite commercially shipping product today.
NOVONIX Anode Materials, Large Scale, Energy Efficient, Domestic Production of High-performance Synthetic Graphite Anode Material for Use in Electric Vehicles and Energy Storage Systems, $150,000,000. NOVONIX Anode Materials LLC, a wholly-owned subsidiary of NOVONIX Limited, was formed in 2017. It has developed process technology and experience in producing lower carbon intensity, high performance, synthetic graphite targeting the electric vehicle and energy storage sectors.
Currently, NAM is building its first mass production site in the United States, which will produce 10,000 metric tons per year of battery grade synthetic graphite. The project will build a new plant in Chattanooga to produce 30,000 metric tons per year of graphite targeted at the electric vehicle industry.
The project will use raw materials primarily sourced domestically, leverage domestic technology and equipment suppliers, and enjoy significant involvement from community supporters. The project involves strong partnerships, commitments, and support from domestic technology and equipment suppliers such as Phillips 66 and Harper International, validation partners such as Oak Ridge and Argonne National Labs, and cell manufacturers and automotive original equipment manufacturers (OEMs). NAM will deploy its advanced, cost effective and environmentally friendly process technology to provide a ~60% reduction in carbon intensity relative to the traditional Chinese synthetic graphite.
Syrah Technologies, Phase 3 Expansion of Syrah’s Commercial-Scale Natural Graphite Active Anode Material Facility in Vidalia, Louisiana, $219,820,610. Syrah’s Vidalia facility is an integrated milling, purification, coating, and surface treatment operation producing on-specification active anode material (AAM), using natural graphite from Balama graphite operation in Mozambique.
Construction of a new 11,250 metric tons per annum (tpa) AAM facility is underway, with start of production scheduled for the third quarter of 2023. This project (“Phase 3 Expansion”) will expand the production capacity of the Vidalia AAM facility from 11,250tpa to at least 45,000tpa AAM.
Upon start of production of the 11,250tpa facility, Syrah’s Vidalia facility will be the only vertically integrated and large-scale natural graphite AAM producer outside China and the first large-scale natural graphite AAM producer in the US. In 2026, US-based lithium-ion battery manufacturing capacity is forecast to be almost 600GWh, which is estimated to require over 500,000 tpa graphite-based AAM.
Materials Separation & Processing (Cathode Minerals)
Albemarle US, Kings Mountain Lithium Materials Processing Plant, $149,658,312. The project objective is to construct a new, commercial-scale lithium materials processing plant at Kings Mountain, North Carolina, that uses sustainably extracted spodumene minerals from the site’s lithium mine.
This investment would allow Albemarle to process 8,000 tons per day (2.7 million tons per annum) of spodumene ore through a plant designed to produce 1,150-1,200 tons per day (~350,000 tons per annum) of 5.5-6.0% Li2O spodumene concentrate. Such a plant would feed a 50,000 metric ton per year conversion plant to produce battery grade lithium hydroxide to support domestic manufacturing of the lithium-ion battery cells to power 750,000 electric vehicles per year. Albemarle is finalizing the site selection for the lithium hydroxide conversion plant in the southeastern United States.
American Battery Technology Company, Large-Scale Demonstration of Domestic Manufacturing of Low-Cost and Low- Environmental Impact Battery-Grade Lithium Hydroxide from Unconventional Domestic Sedimentary Resources, $57,744,831. American Battery Technology Company (ABTC) and partners will build, and operate a commercial-scale facility to demonstrate its novel process for manufacturing battery cathode grade lithium hydroxide (LiOH) from unconventional Nevada-based lithium-bearing sedimentary resources.
ABTC has secured more than 10,000 acres of lithium-bearing sedimentary resources near Tonopah, NV, and its project team has been performing work under an existing grant award from the US Department of Energy’s Advanced Manufacturing Office (AMO) to demonstrate this process in an integrated multi-ton per day field demonstration system.
With the new grant award, a 5,000 MT (metric tonnes) LiOH/year commercial processing plant will be constructed and operated at this resource site, with the capacity of the facility to subsequently be expanded to 30,000 MT LiOH/year.
Ascend Elements, Apex – Integrated Sustainable Battery Precursor, $316,186,575. Ascend Elements will establish industrial-scale US production capacity of sustainable, low-cost precursor cathode materials by integrating the separation of critical cathode materials from spent lithium-ion batteries (LiBs) with the production of both precursor cathode active materials (pCAM) and metal salts to support domestic production of cathode active material (CAM).
Using Ascend Elements’ proprietary and established Hydro-to-Cathode direct precursor synthesis process technology, the new proposed “Apex” facility will be the first domestic, commercial-scale, integrated metal extraction and pCAM facility in the United States. It will produce enough material to supply more than 250,000 electric vehicles annually.
Ascend Elements will plan, design, and build Apex 1 on an existing greenfield site in Hopkinsville, a disadvantaged community (DAC) in southwestern Kentucky. This facility will consist of multiple manufacturing buildings, office space and a warehouse, as well as support infrastructure including a rail spur, unloading/loading stations and holding tanks. The construction process will use established and approved processes for building new manufacturing sites.
Lilac Solutions, Unlocking US Lithium Production, $50,000,000. Lilac’s project in Fernley, Nevada, will demonstrate the production of lithium at commercially relevant scales (TRL 9) using the company’s IX lithium extraction technology. The technology to be demonstrated has the potential to unlock lithium production from domestic resources that are unviable with current production technologies, and thereby vastly expand domestic lithium supply.
Most of the world’s lithium resources are found in naturally occurring salt solutions, known as brines. However, most domestic brine resources contain lithium at concentrations too low, and impurities at concentrations too high, to make extraction commercially viable. Lilac’s patented ion-exchange technology can extract lithium economically from these brines by directly capturing the lithium using solid ion-exchange beads, while impurities remain within the liquid resource and are returned to the natural environment.
The extracted lithium is released from the solid ion-exchange beads using acid, producing a purified lithium stream that can be further processed into battery-grade lithium products using conventional technologies. This project will demonstrate economical and environmentally friendly lithium extraction from domestic lithium resources through three concerted efforts:
Demonstration of manufacturing of proprietary ion-exchange beads used by Lilac’s technology at commercially relevant scales;
Demonstration of lithium extraction from domestic brine resources at commercially relevant scales; and
Collaboration with partner federally funded research and development centers and universities to maximize the positive impact of such projects on communities and the environment.
Piedmont Lithium, Tennessee Lithium, $141,680,442. Piedmont is designing Tennessee Lithium to be a world-class lithium hydroxide facility and a large, low-cost contributor to the battery manufacturing supply chain with a sustainability footprint that is superior to incumbent producers.
Located in McMinn County, Tennessee, the project will be sited in an ideal location and uniquely positioned to supply America’s rapidly growing electric vehicle market. At full production, the Tennessee Lithium is expected to produce 30,000 metric tons per year of lithium hydroxide for the domestic battery and EV market, doubling the lithium hydroxide production capacity currently available in the United States.
Construction is expected to begin in 2023, subject to permitting and project financing, with first production targeted for 2025.
Talon Nickel, Project “Double Play”: An Advanced Domestic Battery Minerals Processing Facility, $114,846,344. Talon’s proposed facility will process nickel ore from economically viable sources for the domestic manufacture of batteries. Talon has signed a supply agreement with Tesla for 75,000 metric tonnes of nickel in concentrate.
The Talon and Tesla supply chain will produce nickel, copper, cobalt and iron in nickel and copper concentrates for multiple battery chemistries. This process improves yield and metal byproduct utilization relative to legacy processing of nickel ores.
Materials Separation & Processing (Precursor)
Koura, LiPF6 Manufacturing Plant in St. Gabriel, Louisiana, $100,000,000. Koura, a global leader in the development, manufacture, and supply of fluoroproducts, plans to build the first US manufacturing plant for lithium hexafluorophosphate (LiPF –) on the grounds of the company’s existing fluorochemical production site in St. Gabriel, Louisiana.
Currently, there are no large-scale domestic producers of LiPF6 and all of it comes from Asian imports. Furthermore, the material degrades over time and is costly to import to the US. As a result, lack of domestic manufacturing represents a critical risk in the supply chain for lithium-ion battery production in the US.
As part of the fluorinated solutions business group of Orbia, a publicly traded global corporation with total revenues of $8.7 billion in 2021, Koura employs a Mine-to-Market capability to produce and distribute its fluorochemical products globally and it owns a vertically integrated North American supply of fluorine, the primary component of LiPF6. Koura’s proposed plant will produce up to 10,000MT of LiPF6 per year, which is sufficient to support domestic production of more than a million full electric vehicles (EVs) annually.
Furthermore, Koura’s LiPF6 plant will have a secure access to critical minerals and downstream processing to establish domestic production of LiPF6. It will also utilize vertical integration, recycling, and state-of-the-art manufacturing to achieve production economics that will be competitive with foreign imports.
Solvay Specialty Polymers USA, Solvay Battery-Grade PVDF Manufacturing Facility, $178,218,568. Solvay Specialty Polymers USA, LLC intends to build a new battery-grade polyvinylidene fluoride (PVDF) facility in Augusta, GA, to supply the needs of the North American electric vehicle (EV) and stationary energy storage market. PVDF is indispensable in the production of batteries as cathode binder and separator coating material.
Solvay’s next-generation PVDF is being used by nearly all EV battery suppliers. PVDF enables EV batteries to go farther on charge, contributes to cycle life, and enhances battery durability. The planned project, which still requires approval from the Solvay Board of Directors, has the potential to provide enough PVDF to supply more than 5 million EV batteries per year at full capacity.