Cutting global heating emissions relies in huge part on electrifying transport. Electrifying transport relies on massively scaling up mining & processing of a handful of minerals. The most famous of those minerals is lithium. The #1 provider in the world of lithium for EV batteries is Albemarle Corporation. For the state of North Carolina, that should be exciting, as Albemarle is based in Charlotte, North Carolina. Also notable is that 41% of Albemarle’s revenue, as of 2021, comes from lithium. Now, Albemarle is digging in (pun intended) and doing more in the Tar Heel State to advance lithium production. The mining giant has announced that it is going to invest $180 million or more to create the Albemarle Technology Park (ATP) in Charlotte, North Carolina.
I’d just like to take us on a tangent here about how all of this links to my life. If you’re not interested, skip the italics. I got my master’s degree from the University of North Carolina–Chapel Hill, home of the Tar Heels. Also, nowadays, I’m obsessed with tennis, and the acronym for the global men’s tennis association is the ATP. Also, as it turns out, my favorite tennis player lives in North Carolina (when he’s not on the road, which is pretty much all the time). Of course, covering electric vehicles for more than a decade, I’m well aware that the EV story now primarily comes down to batteries, batteries, batteries. Hence my enthusiasm to cover this story in the early hours of Christmas Eve.
The aim of the Albemarle Technology Park is to be “a world-class facility designed for novel materials research, advanced process development, and acceleration of next-generation lithium products to market.” This includes lithium recovery (what we often broadly and crudely call mining), lithium production (various processing methods), and even creating new forms of lithium. Wait, what? Yes, apparently that’s part of the plan — “introduce new forms of lithium to enable breakthrough levels of battery performance.” We’ll see.
Albemarle is a stable, large player in the mineral world. One would not expect grandiose or hyperbolic statements from the company. Clearly, though, it wants to do big things and accelerate lithium production at its planned Albemarle Technology Park in North Carolina. I’m sure many of us would also love to visit such a place. It sounds a little like Disney World for EV battery geeks.
Naturally, it’s probably no coincidence that Albemarle is looking to invest more in the United States after the passing of the Inflation Reduction Act of 2022. “Albemarle Technology Park is part of our mine-to-market innovation strategy to invest in the U.S. EV battery supply chain and to be a leader in advanced lithium materials for next-generation energy storage,” said Kent Masters, Albemarle CEO. “This facility will focus and accelerate our lithium technology leadership, better enabling the world’s transition to more sustainable energy.” No mention of the IRA there, but a lot of battery makers and automakers will be looking for new battery mineral projects in the States, and this tech park should help some of them along, or help stimulate some of them.
Albemarle is not doing this all on its own. It has secured a $13 million investment from the state to help get the project off the ground.
“Albemarle’s work on the next generation of products related to lithium batteries really advances North Carolina’s leadership in the emerging clean energy economy,” said Governor Cooper. “Reducing carbon emissions is good for our environment and great for our economy too.” (That’s the kind of language you can only get from a Democratic governor. North Carolina, don’t lose such a gem.
Here are a few more details about the park, its goals, and its origins: “The incentive package is part of a Job Development Investment Grant (JDIG) supporting a portion of Albemarle’s investment to transform the former IBM and Flextronics facility. The company anticipates creating at least 200 jobs at the site, with an average salary of $94,000 per year. In particular, the team intends to triple the number of Ph.D. professionals in the Albemarle Technology Park.”
Stay tuned. It seems inevitable that we’ll have news regarding this lithium tech park in the years to come. The current goal is to start operations there in early 2025 and to have the campus completed by late 2026.
Featured image: Albemarle Technology Park Rendering (PRNewsfoto/Albemarle Corporation)
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