The Future Battery Industries Cooperative Research Centre (FBICRC) has opened the doors on its flagship project, the Cathode Precursor Production Pilot Plant, in Western Australia. 

FBICRCThe opening was marked by WA Parliamentary Secretary Matthew Swinbourn on behalf of the Minister for Mines and Petroleum Bill Johnston.

The facility, the first of its kind in the country, is backed by 19 industry, research and government groups. FBICRC said the launch represents a “major step” in Australia’s expansion of presence throughout the global battery value chain and will also establish the technology and capabilities for Australia to design and build cathode precursor manufacturing facilities on a commercial and industrial scale.

“Over 18 months, the plant will run a series of test campaigns through four fully integrated and automated P-CAM production units, provided by BASF,” it said, noting the four units will enable the pilot plant to run different compositions and ratios of chemistries simultaneously, or to run the same chemistries under four different conditions.

“Produced P-CAM is then lithiated, calcined and electrochemically tested at the FBICRC funded Electrochemical Testing Facility at the Queensland University of Technology. BHP Nickel West has also provided equipment for the precursor facility, repurposed from their nickel sulphate pilot plant.”

The FBICRC report Future Charge — Building Australia’s Battery Industries previously targeted the establishment of an active materials manufacturing capability as an “immediate priority” for the country to advance its battery chain position. The group said the facility could bring $1 billion to the economy and support 4,800 jobs by 2030.

The Cathode Precursor Production Pilot Plant will link with other FBICRC flagship projects across Australia, including the National Battery Testing Centre at the Queensland University of Technology, battery materials research at the University of Technology Sydney, electrolyte research at Deakin University and battery anode research at the University of Melbourne.

“The incoming government has committed to a National Battery Strategy, which will help to seize local battery manufacturing opportunities. The Cathode Precursor Production Pilot Plant will be a key enabler to build an Australian manufacturing capability,” said CEO Shannon O’Rourke.

According to the group’s statistics, the global battery market is expected to grow 9-10 times by 2030 and 40-fold by 2050. In a net-zero world, between now and 2050, over A$23 trillion will be spent on batteries.

Project participants include: BASF Australia Limited; BHP Nickel West; Queensland University of Technology; Curtin University; CSIRO; Minerals Research Institute of Western Australia; University of Technology Sydney; HEC Group; JordProxa; Ardea Resources; IGO Limited; Blackstone Minerals; Cobalt Blue Holdings; Calix Limited; Alpha HPA; Lycopodium Limited; ChemX Materials; EV Metals Group; and Allkem (formerly Galaxy Resources). Future participants include King River Resources and Pure Battery Technologies.

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