BHP has started operations at a nickel sulphate plant at the Kwinana refinery in Western Australia, as the company increases its foothold in the battery minerals market.
The facility can produce more than 100,000 tonnes of nickel sulphate annually at 99.99 per cent purity.
BHP operates the Mt Keith, Cliffs and Leinster nickel operations in Western Australia through its BHP Nickel West business.
It has concentrators located at Mt Keith, Leinster and Kambalda, a smelter in Kalgoorlie and the Kwinana refinery.
BHP has powered 50 per cent of its Kwinana refinery by solar to reduce its environmental footprint.
BHP’s nickel sulphate plant is the first of its kind in Australia, and will produce enough premium nickel sulphate to make 700,000 electric vehicle batteries each year.
“High quality and sustainable nickel is essential for our customers, and we expect demand for nickel in batteries will increase by 500 per cent in the next decade,” BHP Nickel West asset president Jessica Farrell said.
“Our investment to upgrade the refinery to produce high purity nickel sulphate, along with nickel powder and briquettes, will enhance Nickel West’s position as a supplier of choice for the growing global electric battery market.”
Kwinana’s nickel sulphate facility is enough to supply 700,000 batteries for electric vehicles (EVs) with more than 85 per cent of BHP’s current production sold to the future-battery supply chain.
BHP has entered a memorandum of understanding (MoU) with Prime Planet Energy & Solutions and Toyota Tsusho Corporation for the supply of nickel sulphate from its production plant at Nickel West in Western Australia.
The MoU will create an electric vehicle (EV) ecosystem, with nickel sulphate as a crucial ingredient EV lithium-ion batteries.
The three companies will also explore if recycled battery scrap and used batteries at Nickel West can be used for further production of nickel products.
According to BHP Nickel West asset president Jessica Farrell, nickel is growing in demand due to the increase of EV production.
“Demand for nickel in batteries is estimated to grow by over 500 per cent over the next decade to support increasing demand for electric vehicles,” Farrell said.
“We have invested in our Nickel West facilities and power agreements so that we can now deliver some of the world’s most sustainable and lowest carbon emission nickel to customers.
“We are excited to work with our partners to potentially increase the use of electric vehicles at our operations and further advance our sustainability agenda.”
BHP Nickel West is Western Australia’s largest nickel producer with the state being the world’s fourth largest supplier of nickel, selling more than $3.3 billion of the commodity last year.
“BHP Nickel West’s nickel sulphate plant is a significant achievement for our state and bolsters the McGowan Government’s efforts to continue diversifying our local industry towards the next step of the battery value chain,” Western Australia Mines and Petroleum Minister Bill Johnston said.
“Through the WA Recovery Plan, we have committed $13.2 million to facilitate a global precursor cathode manufacturer to build a facility in WA.
“WA is the only state to have a clear strategy supporting the development of a world-leading future battery industry that will create jobs and benefit regional communities.”