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Chile raises Albemarle lithium quotas

09 Mar 2018 22:24 GMT
Chile raises Albemarle lithium quotas

New York, 9 March (Argus) — Chile's Economic Development agency (Corfo) increased the lithium quota by 80pc for US-based specialty chemicals producer Albemarle contingent on a new extraction process.

Corfo approved a new annual quota allowing Albemarle to produce between 120,000-140,000 metric tons (t)/yr of lithium carbonate equivalent (LCE) through 2043, up from 65,000-80,000 t/yr previously.

Albemarle plans to utilize a new extraction technique that does not require pumping additional lithium brine from the Salar de Atacama reserve. The company expects similar production costs and margins compared to the existing extraction processes.

"We are pleased that, with this new quota, we have the opportunity to add additional capacity in the Atamaca in a highly efficient and sustainable manner," said John Mitchell, president of lithium at Albemarle. "Albemarle's new brine yield technology is a part of our already announced Wave 2 capacity expansions targeted for commissioning after 2021."

As of September 2017, Albemarle planned to expand LCE production in Chile to 80,000t through development projects set for completion by 2020. After the initial expansion is complete, the company would build the additional facilities designed around the new extraction process by the early 2020s.

Corfo last expanded Albemarle's quotas in January of 2017 from 26,000 t/yr to 82,000t/yr.

Production volumes are fully committed in 2018, which will raise sales by 10,000t on battery grade applications.

Albemarle forecast 12pc electric vehicle market penetration by 2025, up from 1.3pc in 2017. Demand for lithium carbonate equivalent is expected to surpass 800,000t from 220,000t currently.