BHP Billiton to produce nickel sulphate next year, eying cobalt on battery boom

BHP Billiton is expanding its business as a supplier of battery minerals at its nickel refinery in Western Australia, planning to start producing nickel sulphate next year and looking at cobalt output as well, a company executive said.

Cobalt and nickel are both critical ingredients for lithium ion batteries, and are expected to see a boom in demand as global automakers transition into producing electric vehicles.

Most of the world’s cobalt supply comes from the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), which has been beset by governance and human rights concerns. After the DRC, Australia has the world’s second-largest mineral reserves.

“Part of our transition to becoming a global supplier of battery materials means we have started looking at cobalt options as well,” Eduard Haegel, president of BHP Billiton’s Nickel West refinery, said on Wednesday at a battery materials conference in Shanghai.

“We see cobalt as remaining in short supply … For this reason we are looking to broaden our support of the battery sector by increasing our contribution to cobalt supply.”

BHP is already due to start producing nickel sulphate at its Nickel West project next year, Haegel said, and is in the early stages of considering a plan to double that output.

The miner could grow its cobalt production and sell it as cobalt sulphate, a battery ready form of the metal, he said.

BHP could do this by developing a cobalt circuit at its Kwinana Nickel refinery and by increasing cobalt recovery at its Kalgoorlie smelter, both in Western Australia, as well as potentially taking third party cobalt concentrate, he said.

The miner said last year it would retool its Nickel West operations to focus on producing supply for the battery industry, and Haegel said it has been building a solid chain of battery customers.

It expects to have sold 90 percent of its nickel sulphate supply by the end of 2019, two years earlier than anticipated.

BHP expects to sell 65-70 percent of this year’s nickel output to the battery sector, about 45,000-50,000 tonnes of metal, based on last year’s figures, Haegel said.

Although an investment decision to go ahead has not yet been made, BHP is advancing plans to potentially double capacity at its nickel sulphate operations to 200,000 tonnes, depending on industry demand, which would create the world’s largest nickel sulphate plant at Nickel West, he said.

 


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Author: Tom Daily 
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Musk says Tesla will be profitable in third-quarter, fourth-quarter

Tesla Inc (TSLA.O) will be profitable in the third and fourth quarters of this year and will not have to raise any money from investors, billionaire Chief Executive Elon Musk said on Friday, driving shares in the electric car maker up to 3 percent higher.

Tesla has already sought this month to play down Wall Street speculation that it would need to return to capital markets this year to raise more funds as it ramps up production of the Model 3 sedan seen as crucial to its long-term profitability.

The car maker, which has consistently fallen short of promised targets on production and is fighting bad publicity over a crash of a car using its Autopilot system, said 10 days ago it would have positive cash flow from the third quarter.

The Economist recently published a story claiming Tesla would need $2.5 billion to $3 billion this year in additional funding.

Musk took to Twitter to reply, “The Economist used to be boring, but smart with a wicked dry wit. Now it’s just boring (sigh.) Tesla will be profitable & cash flow+ in Q3 & Q4, so obv no need to raise money.”

Tesla shares, which have gained nearly 10 percent since disclosing the Model 3 production numbers on April 3, gained as much as 3.2 percent in premarket trade on Friday. They were up around 2 percent soon after the opening bell on Wall Street.

Wall Street brokerage Jefferies, which provided the funding estimate cited by The Economist, said in a note last week it expects refinancing risk to remain high for the Silicon Valley venture until it can consistently produce 10,000 Model 3s a week.

The company again missed its own 2,500 target for weekly production at the end of the first quarter, and analysts and fund managers doubt Tesla’s ability to keep production growing to a promised 5,000 Model 3s per week in three months time.

 


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Author: Sonam Rai
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Ford could make electric cars in Germany after 2023

FRANKFURT (Reuters) – Ford could make electric cars in Germany after 2023, when the life cycle of Ford’s Fiesta model is due to end, the head of the carmaker’s German business told a paper, adding he would welcome state subsidies to support the shift.

“Purely hypothetically that (2023) could be a good time for it,” Gunnar Herrmann told German business daily Handelsblatt in an interview published on Tuesday,

He said it would take around 15 months to retool the company’s plant in Cologne but said it would not be worth the investment if sales of electric cars reached only 30,000 or 40,000 vehicles a year.

“It will be possible if the sales’ numbers are moving up more powerfully. Unfortunately, today electric cars are not especially profitable yet,” said Herrmann.

German premium carmaker BMW last week echoed Hermann’s comments, saying it would not mass produce electric cars until 2020 because its current technology is not profitable enough to scale up for volume production.

U.S. carmaker Ford plans to invest $5 billion in electric vehicles by 2022 and introduce at least 13 electric or hybrid models worldwide in the next five years and aims to make its first fully electric vehicle in Europe in 2020.

Herrmann suggested that the western German state of North Rhine-Westphalia, where Ford’s Cologne plant is located, could offer subsidies to support the shift to electric vehicles.

“The state could do its part to initiate the structural shift, as could the federal government,” he said.

Germany’s new coalition government plans to ease the tax burden on drivers of electric vehicles, provide at least an additional 100,000 charge points across the country and subsidize car-sharing to push a shift to greener transportation.

There are also plans to provide funding for research into autonomous driving technology and support the establishment of battery cell production in Germany.


 

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Author’s Riham Alkousaa and Alexandra Hudson

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