The German chemical giant announced Friday that it plans to build a factory in Quebec to produce cathode active materials — helping to fill a gap in Canada’s electric vehicle battery supply chain — with production expected to start by 2025
BASF, a Germany-based global chemical company, announced today it has secured land to build a cathode active material (CAM) and battery metals recycling plant in Bécancour, Que. The company says the new facility will support North America’s move to electric mobility and strengthen BASF’s position as a major supplier of CAM.
Cathode active materials are critical to producing lithium-ion batteries for electric vehicles and are typically the most energy-intensive part of the battery manufacturing process.
BASF is already in the process of building a precursor of cathode active materials (PCAM) in Finland and a plant for CAM in Germany. As well, the company is in partnership with Japan’s Toda Kogyo Corp. to produce the battery materials at two facilities in Ohio and Michigan. The Quebec site, BASF says, is intended to further enhance its cathode production footprint in North America by complementing its existing manufacturing sites, boosting its overall place in the North American battery materials supply chain.
“With new investments in electric vehicles and supporting infrastructure being announced continuously in North America, we are pleased to pursue our own investment in the region,” said Peter Schuhmacher, executive vice-president of BASF North America in a press statement.
Significant for Canada
The news is significant from a Canadian standpoint. The construction of a large CAM plant in Quebec and production capabilities by 2025 fills a missing link in the development of an end-to-end domestic electric vehicle battery supply chain.
Bécancour, it’s worth noting, is an industrial park with a deep water port off the St. Lawrence River with rail, road and air access and “at the crossroads of three hydroelectric networks,” which gives it a reliable and low-carbon energy supply.
It is already home to two other Quebec companies in the EV battery supply chain.
Nouveau Monde Graphite completed construction on a graphite purification facility in 2021 and say they are planning a neighbouring 200,000 m2 plant for battery anode active materials. In the same year Nemaska Lithium announced it had secured an option to buy a 500,000 m2 parcel of land to build a chemical conversion facility to produce battery grade lithium hydroxide.
BASF’s announcement is now part of a line of battery cathode-related developments for Canada — but there is still one partnership of which the potential implications for Canada remain to be seen.
In December GM Corp. announced a joint venture with Posco Chemical, a South Korean battery material company, to build a CAM factory at an unspecified location in North America. At the time, Electric Autonomy Canada published a story outlining the potential for that plant to be located in Canada.
Among the indicators was a statement by GM Canada president Scott Bell in an exclusive interview with Electric Autonomy last fall. In it, Bell said GM sees Canada as “playing a big role” in that company’s battery supply chain, and that there are “some opportunities” pending with regards to the materials need to make batteries, specifically.
At the same time as Bell’s interview, Quebec was able to shore up another weak spot in the national manufacturing value chain with twin announcements.
UK technology manufacturing company Britishvolt told Electric Autonomy exclusively that it is looking at a “strategic location” in the province to build its own 60GWh battery cell gigafactory, an R&D centre, and anode and cathode processing. The company tells Electric Autonomy via email that it has no updates to announce with respect to its Canadian activities at this time and it is not yet confirmed where a future Britishvolt facility will be in the province.
And Ontario-based StromVolt also announced they are planning to build a 250MWh lithium battery cell facility and research centre in Quebec, but have not since confirmed a location.
A BASF spokesperson told Electric Autonomy in an email statement that the customers for its cathode materials will be automotive OEMs and battery cell producers, but would not provide more details on any specific companies.
A necessary prerequisite
In the BASF news release, Schuhmacher also said: “This land acquisition is a necessary prerequisite to further advance our strategy to grow our footprint in key regions to better serve our customer’s operations with sustainable and reliable local supply. We look forward to supporting the e-mobility transition in the United States, Canada, Mexico and beyond.”
The Bécancour site will have enough space to produce up to 100 kilotons of CAM per year, BASF says, “with potential for fully integrated precursor cathode active materials (PCAM) supply.”
“The opportunity for potential future upstream investment integration supports BASF’s strategy to build an integrated, closed-loop battery materials ecosystem in all key regions,” reads the press release.
The new facility will be strategically located along the Saint Lawrence River between Montreal and Quebec City. The close access to the river offers “favourable conditions for highly efficient logistics” and will provide access to competitive hydroelectricity to further lower the carbon footprint of the facility.
Planning for the plant is still ongoing but BASF expects to have it commissioned by 2025, pending necessary approvals.