Kemerton: Australia’s Largest Lithium Hydroxide Processing Plant
Albemarle vice president of capital projects in Australia, Josh Rowan, says production at Kemerton is about to significantly increase.
“Albemarle is Australia’s largest producer and manufacturer of lithium and our Kemerton plant is about to get a whole lot bigger,” he said.
“The Kemerton expansion is a boon for the economy and construction of trains 3 and 4 is set to create over 1000 new jobs across all our major contractors – in construction, engineering, support services and more.”
From humble beginnings more than 100 years ago, Albemarle is now Australia’s largest lithium producer and manufacturer.
Headquartered in the United States, Albemarle produces materials and technology critical to the transition to a carbon-free economy.
In Australia, Albemarle produces sustainable lithium product at its processing plant — Kemerton — near Bunbury in WA’s Southwest.
The most modern plant of its type in the world, the Kemerton lithium hydroxide processing plant was completed in 2022 with two processing trains.
With expansion to four processing trains now underway, Kemerton’s production capacity will increase from 50ktpa of lithium hydroxide to 100ktpa.
This is enough to support the manufacture of around 2.4m electric vehicles annually.
Kemerton is designed to process nearly 1mtpa of spodumene ore concentrate from the Talison Lithium mine at Greenbushes, producing up to 100ktpa of lithium hydroxide.
Lithium hydroxide from Kemerton is a highly valued, premium product that benefits from Australia’s reputation for strong environmental governance.
In May 2023 when announcing Kemerton’s expansion, Albemarle’s Global chief executive Kent Masters said the expansion of Kemerton was driven by Albemarle’s confidence in future demand.
“Australia is essential to the global supply chain for energy storage and an important part of our diverse portfolio,” he said.
“Our decision to expand was driven by our confidence in future demand and allows us to offer customers additional supply from Greenbushes, well known as one of the world’s best lithium mines.”
So far, Kemerton has created more than 1800 jobs in construction and over 400 in operations, with the expansion set to create over 1000 additional jobs in construction and around 400 additional workers when operating to capacity with four processing trains.
To support its expansion workforce, Albemarle is building the $140m Paris Grove Worker Accommodation Precinct at nearby Australind.
Mineral Resources Partnership
In November 2019, Albemarle and Minerals Resources (ASX:MIN) formed the MARBL lithium joint venture, which followed the completion of the Wodgina lithium project transaction.
The transaction of Wodgina consisted of the sale of 60% of the Wodgina lithium project, the acquisition of a 40% interest in the first two lithium conversion units being built by Albemarle at Kemerton and the establishment of a 60:40 joint venture (the MARBL lithium joint venture) between Albemarle and Kemerton, respectively.
In July 2023, the joint venture was amended with Albemarle taking 100% ownership of Kemerton.
Upon closing, Albemarle is expected to pay Mineral Resources $568-$617m (US$380-$400m) which includes net consideration for the remaining 15% ownership of Kemerton as well as economic effective date (EED) settlement adjustments.
Pending regulatory approvals from the Foreign Investment Review Board, the amended arrangement is intended to provide greater strategic opportunities for both Albemarle and MinRes based on their global operations and the evolving lithium market.
Australia’s Importance in Meeting Global Lithium Demand
During a recent visit to WA in late August 2023, Mr Masters confirmed there was no doubt that Australia would continue to be a lithium supplier of choice for the world’s top electric vehicle manufacturers.
He said that Albemarle’s final investment decision, made in May 2023, was made almost a year early to meet global demand for electric vehicles.
“The decision reaffirms our commitment to our operations in Australia and further points to the confidence we have in our local team at Kemerton to expand from two processing trains to four,” he said.
“Albemarle forecasts a nearly five-fold increase in global lithium demand from 800,000t in 2022 to 3.7mt in 2030, and the business is acutely aware of the importance of Australia in helping to meet that demand.
“Looking to the future with respect to technology, we are focused on refining process technology within our core business and on the development of new advanced materials — particularly in batteries and battery materials recycling.”
Albemarle Seeks to Expand its Australian Assets
In early September 2023, Albemarle confirmed it had made a best and final non-binding proposal to acquire Liontown Resources (ASX:LTR).
In a statement to the New York Stock Exchange, Albemarle confirmed that, in the absence of a superior proposal, it made the bid to acquire all outstanding shares of Liontown by way of scheme of arrangement for a cash payment of $3.00 per share.
Liontown confirmed that its board intended to recommend the revised Albemarle proposal to its shareholders, subject to entry into a binding agreement as well as other terms and conditions.
This revised proposal values Liontown at $6.6b (US$4.32b).