Environmental tick for Bunbury lithium plant

Albemarle has welcomed a key environmental tick for its Kemerton lithium plant near Bunbury as the US company gears up for the start of site work.

Speaking at a packed WA Works Sundowner in June, Albemarle Kemerton Project Director Edwin Berends hailed the Environmental Protection Authority’s mid-June statement recommending ministerial approval for the lithium plant.

‘This was one of the major milestones to get us through all of the approval processes so we can start and get running by September,’ Berends said.

In his statement, EPA Chairman Tom Hatton said Albemarle’s proposal was environmentally acceptable and could proceed, subject to a management plan to minimise the potential impact on threatened flora and fauna, most notably three species of Black Cockatoo.

Berends told the 200-strong Sundowner audience the company was committed to its target of producing lithium hydroxide at Kemerton by the first quarter of 2020.

‘We have customers for it, our product is sold, so we are really trying to drive the project and execute it well,’ he said.

Albemarle initially plans three trains, with construction starting later this year and running through to 2021.

Trains four and five will be produced, depending on the market, between 2022 and 2025.

Albemarle’s head office in Charlotte, North Carolina, is yet to sanction spending on the first train, expected to top $300 million, pending final State Government approvals.

Meanwhile, Rob Glew, construction director of EPCM contractor Wood Group, provided insight into the huge scale of the project, which will run 1.1km east-west and about 900m north-south.

Components and material for trains one to three includes 110km of piping, 12,000t of steel, 1160km of cables, 60,000 square metres of concrete, 700,000sqm of imported fill and 250,000sqm of cut and fill.

‘We are talking some massive amounts of road trains to come on to the site,’ he said. ‘Just in achieving that, we’ve got a challenge.’

Glew said a large amount of the 6000t of plate work was required for fabrication of tanks.

‘There are about 140 tanks per train, with the majority of those, about 80 per cent, fabricated offsite,’ he said.

ICN Principal Supply Chain Consultant Linus O’Brien revealed a fresh initiative on the ICN Gateway Albemarle listing making it simpler to link up smaller suppliers with Tier One contractors.

Known as Project General Updates, the new section identifies sub-contractor packages that ICN considers will be needed for the project.

‘We can facilitate an easier flow of information to the Tier One contractors about the capabilities of sub-contractors,’ Linus said.

The facility clearly identified companies specialising in categories such as labour hire, freight, electrical, equipment hire, scaffolding and many others, he said.