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The battery chain must come out of the ground

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We haven’t finished hearing about cathodes, anodes and battery cells. The Quebec battery industry will continue to grow in 2023. But the time has also come to bring it out of the ground.

Another manufacturer of cathode materials is expected in Quebec and the Legault government says it is working “very hard” to convince a cellulier – the missing link in the ecosystem – to settle here rather than in the United States. Other announcements are expected in the Quebec battery industry, but a priority has been added this year: to start delivering what has been promised.

“The key for me is the shovel in the ground. You have to see two or three of them,” immediately replies the Minister of Economy, Innovation and Energy, Pierre Fitzgibbon, in an interview with The Presswhen asked about the challenges of 2023.


PHOTO ALAIN ROBERGE, LA PRESSE ARCHIVES

Pierre Fitzgibbon, Minister of Economy, Innovation and Energy

The last 12 months have been busy as foreign multinationals such as BASF and General Motors/POSCO (manufacturing cathodes, the main element of the lithium-ion battery) and Vale (nickel sulphate) have in turn announced projects in the industrial park and port of Bécancour, the place chosen by the Legault government to set up the sector.

However, the agreements have not been properly finalized. It is still unclear how much financial aid will go to BASF and GM/POSCO projects. This step must therefore be completed before we can proceed to the first shovelfuls of soil and official announcements, the step that will confirm that Quebec is truly making its place in the North American ecosystem. The construction phase will start in 2023 for projects like Nemaska ​​Lithium (lithium hydroxide), but the minister wants to see the multinationals get active.

“The beauty is that they have the same pressure as us,” says Fitzgibbon.

I’m under pressure to deliver because the projects have been announced, and they are to deliver battery cells. The pressure from car manufacturers is enormous.

Pierre Fitzgibbon, Minister of Economy, Innovation and Energy

Still in its infancy

Like Europe, North America is trying to reduce its reliance on China for the supply of critical minerals and battery manufacturing. Everyone is trying to get their piece of the pie, but you have to be able to keep your commitments. The time has therefore come to bring the projects out of the ground.

Recyclage Lithion, which intends to complete the construction of its first battery recycling plant in the Montreal region – the site has not yet been unveiled – in the third quarter, finds itself in this situation.

” [Il s’agit] to deliver what we announced, says the president of the young shoot, Benoit Couture. We set up the network to supply batteries in the American Northeast and in Canada. We bought the major equipment. Contracts have been given to manufacture other modules. It is in progress in workshops in Quebec. »


PHOTO FRANÇOIS ROY, LA PRESSE ARCHIVES

Benoit Couture, President of Lithion Recycling

When it comes to cathode manufacturing, The Press had already fanned Ford’s interest last November. The talks are not exclusively with the American manufacturer, said the minister. Quebec is still working hard to complete the battery assembly line. There is always a missing link: a cellier – responsible for the last step before assembling the batteries. Britishvolt and StromVolt, which dangled projects, backtracked last year.

“The cellphone we’re talking to, I won’t give his name. His choice is between us and the United States, launches Mr. Fitzgibbon. We work very hard. »

If I am asked the chances of success [de trouver un cellulier], it’s probably 50-50. A year ago, I said: “So much the better if we have one.” There, I am more aggressive.

Pierre Fitzgibbon, Minister of Economy, Innovation and Energy

The Minister of Economy agrees that theInflation Reduction Act (IRA) of the Biden administration, with its envelope of 370 billion US intended to finance in particular battery manufacturing projects, complicates the task for him. He expects to see the Trudeau government get involved in its next budget.

No time to be unemployed

It’s not just Quebec and businesses that are under pressure. The Société du parc Industriel et Port de Bécancour (SPIB) is also going out of its way to meet the needs of businesses that come to set up shop. The place offers access to a deep-water port as well as railway facilities, but the southern part – which will accommodate multinationals such as BASF and GM/POSCO – needs to be developed. We are talking about the development of service roads, the water network, sewers and the link with the railway.


In office since last summer, President and CEO Donald Olivier has been busy.

“The challenge is the time we don’t have,” he said in an interview. Those are pretty aggressive timelines. The plane took off, but the airstrip must be built. Companies want to start producing in 2025.”

Heavy machinery has been active since last June in the industrial park. The SPIB is not used to being the prime contractor for a construction site. For the “big year” in 2023, the state-owned company is supported by the Quebec construction giant Pomerleau. The bill to prepare the ground is estimated at 350 million. The financial forecasts still hold water, says Mr. Olivier.

Projects at each stage of the battery chain

EXTRACTION

  • Nemaska ​​Lithium
  • New World Graphite
  • Sayona Quebec
  • Blackrock Metals

REFINING

  • Nemaska ​​Lithium
  • New World Graphite
  • Sayona Quebec

MANUFACTURING OF COMPONENTS

  • General Motors/Posco (cathodes)
  • BASF (cathodes)
  • Johnson Matthey (cathodes)
  • Solus Advanced Materials (anodes)

CELLARS

  • No companies yet

BATTERY PACK ASSEMBLY

VEHICLE BUILDING

  • Electric Lion (trucks and school buses)
  • Taiga
  • Nova Bus (city coaches)
  • BRP (snowmobiles and personal watercraft)
  • Latenda (bus)
  • LST Marine (boats)

RECYCLING

Learn more

  • 10 billion
    By the end of the year, scale of the investments that will have been announced in the Québec battery industry since its inception

    Source: Investment Quebec



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