Albemarle Corp. is planning a new lithium hydroxide processing plant in Chester County, S.C., to be served by Lancaster & Chester Railroad. Construction is slated to start next year on the facility that will support the manufacturing of an estimated 2.4 million electric vehicles annually, Albemarle reported March 22.
According to Charlotte, N.C.-based Albemarle, its investment of at least $1.3 billion will help “meet surging demand” for electric vehicles and other energy storage applications that use lithium-ion batteries. The new facility, described as a “Mega-Flex,” will have the ability to process diverse lithium feedstock, including lithium from recycled batteries, the company said.
Albemarle expects the facility to produce approximately 50,000 metric tons of battery-grade lithium hydroxide from multiple sources annually, with the potential to reach up to 100,000 metric tons.
Pending permitting approvals, the plant will be located within a nearly 800-acre parcel. Albemarle estimates the project will create more than 1,500 construction jobs, and once operational, the facility will create more than 300 new jobs.
Gulf & Ohio Railways Inc. (G&O) Chairman Pete Claussen told Railway Age that the plant will generate 9,200 rail carloads annually for the 62-mile Lancaster & Chester, one of four short lines his holding company operates. Lancaster & Chester, which interchanges with Norfolk Southern and CSX, reported in 2021 that it would serve E. & J. Gallo Winery’s first East Coast production and distribution facility, also to be built in Chester County.
“This facility will help increase the production of U.S.-based lithium resources to fuel the clean energy revolution while bringing us closer to our customers as the supply chain is built out in North America,” said Albemarle CEO Kent Masters, who added that the company “wanted a location with access to nearby rail and port transportation and the availability of skilled workers,” and is “excited to have chosen South Carolina.”
“SC Ports is proud to support the fast-growing electric vehicle sector by providing efficient operations, reliable service and speed-to-market,” South Carolina Ports President and CEO Barbara Melvin said. “Albemarle Corp.’s significant investment further expands the state’s electric vehicle capabilities and builds on the global connectivity within the Interstate-77 market.”
In a related development, the American Short Line and Regional Railroad Association (ASLRRA) on April 3 will induct Pete Claussen, Bruce M. Flohr, Edward (“Ed”) Lewis, and Richard Robey into the Short Line Railroad Hall of Fame.