LG Chem to develop Tennessee site as base for batteries in North America

2023.04.20 12:42:02 | 2023.04.20 12:45:59

3-D bird‘s-eye rendering of LG Chem Ltd.’s cathodes production site in Tennessee, U.S. [Photo provided by LG Chem]이미지 확대

3-D bird‘s-eye rendering of LG Chem Ltd.’s cathodes production site in Tennessee, U.S. [Photo provided by LG Chem]

LG Chem Ltd. will develop its production site in Tennessee, initially designed to make cathodes, into a strategic base for battery materials in North America, according to Vice Chairman Shin Hak-cheol.

“We are going to build two cathode materials plants in Tennessee, with a total annual production capacity of 120,000 tons, and the Tennessee site may be expanded into a cluster if there arises any need to localize other battery materials,” Shin said in an exclusive interview with Maeil Business Newspaper Wednesday. He added that anode materials and electrolyte additives could be potential additions to their U.S. business at the site.

At present, LG Chem has a 1.72 million square-meter site in Clarksville, Tennessee. Construction of the cathode production facilities was planned to begin in the first half of this year, but has been postponed until about the end of the third quarter. Tennessee is where a second plant for Ultium Cells, a venture between its unit LG Energy Solution Ltd. and General Motors Co., will be located.

LG Chem is seeking to develop further battery-related value chains as they strengthen battery material businesses. Aside from their traditional strength in cathode materials, it is expanding its reach into other areas, including precursors, metal sulfides, anode binders, carbon nanotubes, separators, thermal adhesives and battery assembly solutions.

The company is also considering cooperation with U.S.-based automakers, including through direct delivery of battery materials, as they see potential in North American markets following the recently introduced U.S. Inflation Reduction Act.

“We’re discussing various options with General Motors and Volkswagen, and will enhancing relations with other automakers,” Shin said.

LG Chem Ltd.‘s Vice Chairman Shin Hak-cheol [Photo provided by LG Chem]이미지 확대

LG Chem Ltd.‘s Vice Chairman Shin Hak-cheol [Photo provided by LG Chem]

In the latter half this year, LG Chem will introduce new products, which the company hopes will strengthen its competitiveness in battery materials.

“Both research into ingredients and the development of processing technology are being carried out simultaneously, aiming to release a single-crystal cathode in the second half this year,” Shin said. “Silicon anode is also on the list of our future products. We’ve been working on it for a long time and will be in the market when we think it’s ready.”

Shin further provided a brief summary of the company’s future related to electric vehicles. “Not only EV makers, but also battery makers, are developing cheaper products for faster adoption of EVs,” he said. “Innovative technologies are enabling us to come up with lithium ferro-phosphates and mid-nickel cathode.”

The interview took place in Gunsan, south of Seoul, where LG Chem will build a precursor plant within the Saemangeum Industrial Complex in partnership with Huayou Cobalt Co. Shin was there to sign a memorandum of understanding with its Chinese counterpart for the 1.2 trillion won ($930 million) plant.

In response to the U.S. regulation, LG Chem will diversify its mineral sources and use self-sourced minerals from its joint venture with Huayou Cobalt. “A venture has been established to jointly obtain raw materials and to jointly proceed with production and quality assurance,” said Shin. “In the beginning phases, our reliance on Huayou Cobalt will be high as they have strengths in securing raw materials and milling.”

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