UPDATE 2-Albemarle freezes Chile expansion plans in wake of lithium tech scrutiny

(Adds information from earnings name, updates stock)

By Ernest Scheyder

Nov 8 (Reuters) – Albemarle Corp on Thursday defended a previously announced method it has stated should improve lithium production in Chile but at the same time postponed enlargement projects in the use of a that might have needed the new era to achieve success.

The circulate increases similarly questions about just what Albemarle, the sector’s biggest lithium producer, has advanced and the way it can paintings. If the procedure proves much less than the market, the company dangers not being capable of meeting an predicted surge in demand for lithium in the coming years to make Tesla and different electric powered motors.

Albemarle stated closing year it had evolved a manner that could extra than triple its lithium output in Chile without using more water, in what might be a tantalizing development for the arid area wherein the white metal is produced.

“If a success and we’ve got visible no doubt to suggest that it gained’t be, the task might allow us to produce extra lithium from the equal quantity of brine that we pump a day,” Chief Executive Luke Kissam stated on a Thursday conference name after the company released its 0.33-zone results.

Reuters suggested in advance this week that the claim turned into drawing extended scrutiny from regulators and investors pushing for greater information.

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On the equal call, Kissam said Albemarle will stop engineering work on its planned La Negra V and VI expansion tasks as it believes battery manufacturers will need extra lithium hydroxide, a sort of the steel usually observed in Australia however not Chile.

Albemarle has authorization from Chilean officers to provide the equal of as much as 80,000 tonnes yearly of lithium thru 2043. The La Negra V and VI projects might have taken the production above that mark, requiring regulatory approval. But when Albemarle asked for permission, regulators started delving into simply how the brand new process works, in the end rejecting the application for lack of information. Albemarle has stated it’s going to re-apply.

“All (Chilean regulators) want to peer is a few proofs that it’s going to work before they provide (approval to provide extra lithium) to us. That’s it. It isn’t a big deal, OK? It’s no longer a massive deal. And we simplest need it if we construct” La Negra V and VI, Kissam told analysts.

Despite cancelling elements of the La Negra expansion, Albemarle stated it’s going to maintain to spend money to investigate and engineer the new generation, though it gave few details on the quantity or timing. In 2017, Albemarle stated that the new generation had already been advanced.

“In our spending, our capital spending guidance, we’re spending for that generation. That maintains onwards,” Eric Norris, head of Albemarle’s lithium division, said on the call.

Charlotte, North Carolina-primarily based Albemarle on Wednesday posted a better-than-expected forecast helped in part by means of rate hikes, though Hurricane Florence closed processing facilities in North Carolina for every week, denting volumes.

Shares fell 2.2 per cent to $one zero five. Fifty-five in Thursday afternoon buying and selling. (Reporting by Ernest Scheyder in Houston; Editing by Bernard Orr and Cynthia Osterman)

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