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Bright future forecast for lithium industry

Electrifying growth in lithium-ion sales is expected to lift demand for raw minerals used to make batteries, according to a mining and chemical consultancy.

Roskill Information Services predicts annual demand for lithium will soar 26 per cent for the next nine years. In the company’s latest report, Lithium-ion Batteries: Market Development & Raw Materials 2018, demand for lithium carbonate equivalent (LCE) will gradually rise from 136‌.7kt to more than 1.4Mt LCE by the year 2028.

“Demand for raw materials used in lithium-ion batteries is expected to increase exponentially, as a result of both sales volumes and changing requirements for battery components,” Roskill said in a statement. “Demand for nickel and cobalt will also experience considerable demand growth, albeit their feedstock availability may be compromised.”

This growth will be driven by increasing hybrid and electric vehicle (xEV) production and lithium-ion batteries being used more in energy storage systems (ESS).

“The transition from a market dominated by portable electronics to a market led by lithium-ion batteries in xEVs and ESS has seen the requirements for larger batteries with greater battery capacity, longevity and reliability,” Roskill said. “These changing battery requirements have catalysed the production and use of higher nickel-cathode chemistries such as NCA (lithium nickel cobalt aluminum oxide), NCM (nickel cobalt manganese oxide) 532 and NCM 622.”

Roskill used its automotive model to forecast changing demand for lithium-ion batteries, including battery components, raw material requirements and possible impact of new technologies, such as solid-state batteries, on the overall demand for battery raw materials.

The company has found the supply chain and production processes for raw materials used in lithium includes more than 150 established companies, which produce nine key components required for the final battery cell.

“These include cathodes, anodes, separators, electrolyte salts and solutions, copper and aluminium foils, binders and cell cases, all of which require a wide array of materials and industrial expertise,” Roskill said.

Roskill believes the lithium-ion battery supply chain is very much focused on the Asian market, which is home to more than 87 per cent of lithium-ion battery cell producers. However, a number of them plan to build new manufacturing facilities in Europe and the United States too.

The transport and energy sectors are expected to turn to cleaner lithium-ion batteries due to regulatory changes, emissions standards, subsidies, incentives and potential bans on the sale of fossil fuel-powered vehicles.


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