Glencore to Supply Cobalt to UK Battery Maker

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Glencore has forged an alliance with a fledgling UK manufacturer of batteries for electric vehicles -- a further sign that the world's top independent oil traders are branching out into low-carbon energy (IOD Aug.6'21). Glencore said on Tuesday that it had made an unquantified investment in Britishvolt, a company that was set up in late 2019 to make batteries for electric vehicles. Britishvolt had previously announced plans to build a plant in northeast England to make lithium-ion batteries for electric vehicles, which would represent a total investment of £2.6 billion ($3.6 billion). Construction is set to start by the end of this year, with production starting in 2023 and ramping up to an annual rate of at least 300,000 lithium-ion batteries per year by 2027. Glencore's main role in the partnership with Britishvolt will be to provide "responsibly sourced" cobalt -- a scarce metal that is used to make lithium-ion batteries, which are also used in cell phones and laptop computers. The commodities giant is one of the world's largest producers of cobalt, most of which is a byproduct of copper mining in Congo (Kinshasa), which produces around 60% of the world's cobalt supply. Glencore also produces cobalt from nickel mines in Australia and Canada. Britishvolt said the alliance with Glencore will "derisk" its planned battery plant by giving it long-term security of supply. Glencore said its production and supply of battery metals such as cobalt, copper and nickel will help it meet its target of achieving net-zero emissions by 2050. Glencore -- which buys and sells around 4 million barrels a day of oil -- is not the only big commodities trader moving into the batteries business. One of its biggest rivals, Trafigura, is investing over $35 million in a battery energy storage system in Belgium located near a zinc smelter operated by its affiliate Nyrstar (IOD Jun.10'21) Another trading firm, Mercuria, is involved in a battery storage project in California, as part of its investment in the UK's Broad Reach Power. Broad Reach also has solar and wind projects in different parts of the US. Vitol -- the largest of the independent traders, which markets over 7 million b/d of oil -- had also planned to invest in battery storage in the UK, but ultimately opted to sell its portfolio at the end of 2019. Paul Sampson, London

Energy Storage, Electric Vehicles
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