Article for Stockhead by Reubens Adams - 16.08.22
We don’t have enough lithium, cobalt and nickel to build even one generation of batteries for all EVs and stationary power storage
To phase out ICE and fossil fuels we need a better plan; that includes recycling and alternate battery tech (vanadium, zinc)
ASX stocks looking to build battery recycling businesses include Neometals, Hannans, Lithium Australia
There are not enough minerals, like lithium, cobalt and nickel, in the currently reported global reserves to build even one generation of batteries for all EVs and stationary power storage, according to a recent report.
Associate Research Professor Simon Michaux from Geological Survey of Finland GTK says those batteries have an estimated life cycle of ~10 years.
“This means even if technology improves by doubling efficiency, then the same quantity of metal has to be sourced from somewhere only 10 to 20 years later,” he says.
To phase out ICE and fossil fuels we need a better plan
Overall, there is not enough time, or resources, to phase out fossil fuels by the current target dates set by the world’s most influential nations.
The current plan is not large enough in scope and is missing vital elements, Michaux says.
“The world needs a new strategy to build a genuinely sustainable non-fossil fuel industrial ecosystem,” he says.
“If we want to transition away from fossil fuels, mining of minerals and using recycled minerals and metals from industrial waste streams in new ways will have to increase greatly.
“This must be done with parallel technology systems that require different material chemistries.”
Mineral exploration and development needed on ‘unprecedented scale’
Exploration for new mineral deposits, feasibility studies, and pilot scale tests of existing known deposits will be needed on an unprecedented scale, all over the world, Michaux says.
To hit official 2050 decarbonisation targets we need a shedload of mining/downstream battery materials projects to come online sooner rather than later.
That seems far-fetched, as it can take up to 10 years to bring a mine online.
S&P Global says that even if every lithium project around the world was to come online by 2030 there is still going to be a 220,000t gap minimum in demand in 2030.
In fact, they said it could be as a high as a 2 million tonne gap.
For the cobalt market, a long-term deficit will emerge from 2024.
This deficit will keep getting bigger into the medium term as supply growth fails to keep pace with demand, the Institute says.
“From 2024-26, supply growth will average 8% per year, compared to more than 12% for demand,” it says.
“Prices will remain elevated to incentivise further investment and prevent wide deficits developing.
“Supply side investment remains critical to ensure sufficient supply into the longer term as cobalt demand continues to rise even higher.”
Battery recycling needs to get bigger and better
To supplement primary supply, we need to develop new ways to utilise minerals, metals and materials of our industrial waste and to promote manufacture of easily recyclable products, Michaux says.
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We are laughably short of nickel, cobalt, lithium and graphite. Pic: Geological Survey of Finland GTK.