[INFOGRAPHIC] Clean energy metals: the rise of lithium
As commodities like gold and iron ore continue to endure a downward spiral, a window of opportunity is beginning to open for clean energy metals like lithium, cobalt and graphite. The following infographic reveals how the shift to clean energy will commence a lithium revolution.
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• Related content: Nevada will soon play a major role in supplying lithium to Tesla
The demand for electric cars and energy storage for renewable sources continues to rapidly increase, paving the way for a shift towards energy metals. The momentum has been building for some time, according to VisualCapitalist.
Political and social:
• Obama reveals clean energy plan: The push will involve more than $1 billion in government funds to back new clean energy and energy efficiency projects along with funding research and development of new energy technologies.
• Who were the biggest investors in renewable energy in 2014?
China ($83.3 billion), USA ($38.3 billion), and Japan ($35.7 billion)
• Volkswagen DieselGate scandal causes uproar, as it becomes clear that millions of the company’s vehicles have cheated emissions tests for years
• Elon Musk announces a mandate for Tesla Motors to acquire raw materials from the USA when possible.
• 4,000 people die, each day, of pollution related deaths in China alone.
• The United States deems lithium as a strategic metal and doesn’t give any statistics of its reserves or production.
• Tesla reveals plans to build $5 Billion Gigafactory in the Southwestern US.
• Tesla announces Nevada as the site of its already-famous Gigafactory project.
• The 1 millionth electric car is built in September 2015.
• Report surfaces that Apple plans to ship driverless cars by 2019.
• Google’s self-driving cars reach the milestone of 1 million miles driven autonomously.
• Tesla takes $800 million in orders for its new home batteries in just two weeks.
• A TSX-V traded company was the most recent recipient of an off take agreement to supply Tesla with Lithium Hydroxide.
• Volkswagen’s stock price gets crushed over 30% in the aftermath of DieselGate.
• FMC recently announced an “across the board 15% increase in price” in all finished lithium products. Lithium Hydroxide rose from $9,500 per ton, up to $10,870. Lithium Carbonate from $6,500 per ton up to $7,475 USD.
• Charging stations have increased rapidly around the world.
• Every major auto manufacture has more than one fully electric car. Some automakers mandate is to have an electric version of every model.
• The oil price has hit a 6.5 year low, yet electric vehicle sales have held momentum.
• Lithium battery manufacturing costs are dropping in price while lithium battery technology is getting better.
• New technology is decreasing the charge time for electric cars. Meanwhile, “miles per charge” is rising, and some cars can even recharge wirelessly.
• There’s a greater interest in looking after the environment with a continued scare of global warming.
• Wind and solar storage needed to regulate output of electricity back to the grid.
• China is a nation now giving priority to EV cars on their highways and parking lots.
Rio Tinto partners with ARENA for green hydrogen research
Rio Tinto has partnered with the Australian Renewable Energy Agency (ARENA) to study whether hydrogen can replace natural gas in alumina refineries to reduce emissions.
Rio Tinto and ARENA partnering for green energy push
Rio Tinto will conduct a $1.2mn feasibility study, equally funded with ARENA through a $580,000 grant, into using clean hydrogen to replace natural gas in the calcination process of refining at the Yarwun alumina refinery in Gladstone.
The study program includes work to be done at Rio Tinto’s Bundoora Technical Development Centre in Melbourne, where Rio Tinto’s in-house development capability has now been extended to hydrogen.
ARENA CEO Darren Miller commented: “If we can replace fossil fuels with clean hydrogen in the refining process for alumina, this will reduce emissions in the energy and emissions intensive refining stage of the aluminium supply chain. Exploring these new clean energy technologies and methods is a crucial step towards producing green aluminium.
“This study will investigate a potential technology that can contribute to the decarbonisation of the Australian alumina industry. If successful, the technical and commercial lessons from Rio Tinto’s study could lead to the implementation of hydrogen calcination technology, not only in Australia, but also internationally.”
Rio Tinto Aluminium Pacific Operations acting managing director Daniel van der Westhuizen added: “We see the ARENA and Rio Tinto-funded study as a step towards reducing refinery emissions and one that has the potential to play an important part in Rio Tinto’s commitment to decarbonisation.
“We’re investing in work that needs to be done, not only to decarbonise one of our sites, but also to help provide a lower-emissions pathway for Rio Tinto and the global aluminium industry.
“We recognise we are on a long road towards reducing emissions across our operations and there is clearly more work to be done. But projects such as this are an important part of helping us get there.”
Can hydrogen replace natural gas in alumina refineries?
The study comprises two distinct work packages:
- Preliminary engineering and design study conducted to understand the construction and operational requirements of a potential demonstration project at the Yarwun alumina refinery.
- Simulating the calcination process using a lab scale reactor at the Bundoora Technical Development Centre.
Once complete, the study will inform the viability of a potential demonstration project. Rio Tinto has lodged patents for the hydrogen calcination process.
Rio Tinto aiming for net zero by 2050
Rio Tinto is aiming to reach net zero emissions across its operations by 2050. Across the company, it is targeting a 15% reduction in absolute emissions and a 30% reduction in emissions intensity by 2030, from a 2018 baseline.
Aluminium is found in everything from cars to phones. But one of the challenges of producing this essential material responsibly is finding ways to decarbonise the process.
Part of the reason is creating alumina – the main ingredient in aluminium – takes a lot of energy, which in turn creates greenhouse gas emissions. New technologies will be essential to helping reduce emissions, but many haven’t been proven. And some not yet even discovered. Rio Tinto's transformation is being driven by innovation and its partnership with ARENA is a positive step towards these goals.