UK’s first large-scale merchant lithium refinery announced

Business secretary Grant Shapps yesterday visited Teesside to announce the UK’s first large-scale merchant lithium refinery.

The refinery will produce battery-grade lithium for use in the electric vehicle supply chain
The refinery will produce battery-grade lithium for use in the electric vehicle supply chain - Adobestock

Green Lithium’s refinery in Teesport, Middlesborough, will provide battery-grade materials for use in the electric vehicle, renewable energy and consumer technology supply chains. The company has been backed by £600,000 from the UK government, through the Automotive Transformation Fund.

The refinery promises to deliver more than 1,000 jobs in construction and 250 long-term high-skilled jobs once operational. It aims to produce 50,000 tonnes of battery-grade lithium a year and enable manufacturers to build over one million electric vehicles.

Lithium is an essential component of batteries and a secure supply will be critical for the automotive and energy industries. Currently, 89 per cent of the world’s lithium processing takes place in East Asia and there are currently no lithium refineries in Europe. Green Lithium aims for this to be the first merchant lithium refinery outside of Asia.

“We’re backing companies, like Green Lithium here in Teesside, to grow the new, green industries across the UK, sparking jobs and growth for decades to come,” said business secretary Grant Shapps.

“It is also allowing us to move quickly to secure our supply chains of critical minerals, as we know that geopolitical threats and global events beyond our control can severely impact the supply of key components that could delay the rollout of electric vehicles in the UK.”

Lauren Pamma, programme director at the Green Finance Institute, said that the UK will need to ramp up its current production of around 2GWh battery capacity per year to over 90GWh a year to maintain the car industry at its current size.

“Key to establishing this capability is building a world-leading, home-grown supply chain from raw material processing through to recycling. The Teesside lithium plant is a great example of how the public and private sectors can work together to deliver just that,” she said.

“If we’re serious about decarbonising transport, protecting existing jobs and attracting new ones, we need to double down on this kind of public-private investment – failure to invest now risks seeing other countries capture this once-in-a-generation opportunity to deliver a modern-day green industrial revolution. If the UK can harvest this momentum, we will be positioned to lead the way on a sector that will underpin the future of road transport.”