First lithium refinery in UK set to be built, signalling commitment to emobility

  • Green Lithium has announced that planning permission has been approved to build a large lithium refinery in the north of England.
  • The factory is set to be fully operational by 2027.
  • The news comes just after JLR owners Tata announced plans to build a battery gigafactory within the country.

New lithium refinery will provide up to 1m EV batteries per year

Planning permission has been granted for Green Lithium’s first lithium refinery facility, being built in the North East of the UK. It will be the first of its kind in the UK, and one of the first in all of Europe.

Currently, over 90% of the globe’s refined lithium comes from east Asia. Green Lithium hopes that the move will reduce the UK’s reliance on imported lithium from China, in particular. This is not only beneficial for shortening the supply chains, but also for the environment. The company says its plant will reduce its carbon footprint by 75%, in comparison to current factories. This is achieved through renewable energy, carbon capture, and the use of hydrogen gas at the facility.

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With the factory set to be operational by 2027, the building of the facility will create up to 1,200 construction jobs. Meanwhile, the site is expected to employ 250 full-time workers upon its completion.

A maximum production capacity per year of 50,000 tons of battery-grade lithium chemicals will be able to supply 1 million EV batteries each year. However, the refined lithium will also go towards lithium-ion batteries in other applications such as ebikes, and for energy storage solutions.

What does the move mean for the UK’s EV industry?

The company hopes that the move will encourage further development of battery gigafactories within the UK, to meet the growing demand for electric vehicles both in the country and worldwide. Jaguar Land Rover owners Tata have already announced their plans for a battery gigafactory in the south of England, too.

In addition, local production reduces the cost of supply chain-related logistics, and dodges the import tariffs of importing refined lithium into the UK and the EU. A trade agreement between the two states stipulates that free trade of electric cars will only be possible if over 45% of materials are sourced locally. This could assist European manufacturers in providing cheap electric cars, competing with the likes of MG, BYD, and GWM, all of which are gaining a sizable foothold in Europe.

“This represents a major milestone in the Green Lithium development programme. It sets the parameters for the design of the project, and it allows us to start planning for construction. This project for the local community means a major investment in the Middlesbrough area. It is in the order of £1bn worth of investment that we intend to make over the development of the project, and it will mean up to 1,200 construction jobs, at peak, and up to 250 permanent jobs on site when the plant is commissioned”.

Charlie Tasker, Site Development and Construction Project Manager, Green Lithium

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