Lithium processing company Green Lithium has agreed terms with global giant Trafigura that will support the development of one of the first centralised commercial refineries in Europe.

No new site has been announced yet but Teesside is understood to be the frontrunner by a long way. The refinery will supply European electric vehicle and battery manufacturers with battery-grade lithium chemicals.

Under the newly-established relationship, Trafigura plans to supply lithium feedstock required for the site and invest in Green Lithium’s development.

Read more: £90,000 to support huge growth in North East’s battery sector

A few weeks ago Trafigura made a reappearance in the region with a plan to reopen a gas terminal on Teesside as the UK and Europe try to reduce their reliance on Russian energy.

The company has had the option for years to reopen the site, but was waiting for the “right market window” and it was suggested it had already invested $30million in the site after negotiating a new lease.

The North East is a pivotal player in the car battery sector, with the recent creation of the North East Battery Alliance in response to the ongoing expansion of the sector, which will include Britishvolt’s lithium-ion gigaplant facility in Northumberland, and Envision-AESC’s gigafactory on the International Advanced Manufacturing Park (IAMP) in Sunderland / South Tyneside.

Also, Tees Valley Mayor Ben Houchen recently welcomed the news that Sembcorp Energy UK has signed a deal to push forward the production of batteries for electric vehicles.

The company is working exclusively with an investment company whose subsidiary Tees Valley Lithium plans to bring their electric vehicle grade Lithium Hydroxide Chemical Processing Plant to Wilton International, within the Teesside freeport zone, supporting 500 jobs during construction and 250 when in operation.

Now Green Lithium is at the forefront of this transition. There is currently no commercial lithium refining capability in Europe, leaving the continent’s rapidly growing electric vehicle and sustainable energy storage sectors wholly reliant on China for critical battery metals. In delivering its lithium refinery, Green Lithium expects to create the missing link and guarantee upstream supply chain security.

Sean Sargent, Chief Executive Officer at Green Lithium, said: “The electric revolution is fundamental to reducing the carbon emissions that contribute to global climate change and ensuring net-zero targets can be met. Green Lithium’s refinery will accelerate the adoption of electric vehicles and sustainable energy storage through the increased supply of low-carbon, battery-grade lithium chemicals – a key component of lithium-ion batteries.

“Fulfilling this vision requires the right supply chain and investment partners. In Trafigura, we have found the perfect match in a company that not only has vast experience and expertise in the battery supply chain, but that is also willing to make a key equity investment to support Green Lithium in achieving its project objectives.”

Following its initial private funding round, securing over 5x the target amount, Green Lithium is currently raising capital to fund its development phase activity.

Read more: Timeline set out for 'UK first’ Sembcorp batteries project

Tees Valley Mayor Ben Houchen told BUSINESSiQ : “We are speaking to investors in the automotive supply chain who recognise the benefit of being in a freeport - especially when the race to strengthen supply chains is creating advantages for those locating in the UK early.

“Lithium is a key part of that and I’m working to make sure we capture this amazing opportunity on Teesside.”

The Green Lithium project started when founders Richard Taylor and Guy Hatcher identified a critical gap in the future UK and European battery supply chain. They then carried out extensive work mapping hard-rock lithium resources before securijng over £2m in funding through private investment and government grants, established a detailed programme of delivery, assembled a 60-strong project delivery team and formed commercial partnerships with key suppliers.


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