Lithium Hydroxide (LiOH) is an inorganic compound that is insoluble in water and partially soluble in ethanol. It is commercially available as a monohydrate (LiOH.H2O) and in anhydrous form, both of which are strong bases. On the basis of purity level, it is also available in battery grade and technical grade. Lithium hydroxide is manufactured by means of a metathesis reaction between calcium hydroxide and lithium carbonate and it finds extensive use in battery manufacturing and as an industrial lubricant. Owing to improved properties of lithium hydroxide, as compared to other concentrates, it is mostly preferred in new battery technologies. Besides, there is a potential market for lithium hydroxide in rechargeable battery manufacturing. The compound is also majorly used in production of industrial greases such as lithium stearate, a popular lubricating grease that offers excellent thermal resistance. However, owing to its indispensable use in these industries along with difficulties in sourcing and manufacturing, the compound is available at significantly high prices. Furthermore, the supply-demand gap prevalent in the industry due to lack of supply and growing demand is expected to further push prices upwards. Lithium hydroxide on being heated produces toxic fumes which act as potential restraint for the market growth. According to CMI analysis, the worldwide demand for lithium hydroxide is forecast to expand at a healthy rate in the foreseeable future.
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In recent years, demand for lithium hydroxide has been dominated by its use in lubricant grease application and the trend is expected to continue over the next few years. However, the emergence of nickel cobalt aluminum oxide (NCA) cathode use for power tool batteries and later transportation is expected to surpass the growth of lubricant grease application segment in the latter half of the forecast period. Rapidly growing power generation industry in Asia Pacific region, together with increasing establishment of manufacturing facilities are expected to drive demand for lithium hydroxide in the region. Furthermore, setting up of Tesla Gigafactory in the U.S. is another major factor that is expected to drive demand in the North American market.
Lithium Hydroxide Market Outlook – Rapid industrialization coupled with growing battery storage market to fuel demand for lithium hydroxide in emerging economies
Rapid economic development in countries such as China and India is expected to drive demand for multi-purpose grease, which in turn, is expected to fuel revenue growth in the global lithium hydroxide market. Also, growing industrialization across the world is expected to evoke demand for power tools, which requires NCA cathode, made from lithium hydroxide. Besides, rising global demand for electric vehicles is anticipated to boost consumption of lithium hydroxide over the forecast period (2016-2024). Furthermore, rising solar PV installations across the world coupled with an increasing demand for high storage capacity batteries is driving the lithium hydroxide market, and simultaneously driving revenues for existing stakeholders. The market is governed by various regulatory bodies such as International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO), Technical Instructions and corresponding International Air Transportation Association (IATA), Dangerous Goods Regulations and International Maritime Dangerous Goods (IMDG) Code, with regulations mainly pertaining to transportation of primary lithium.
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Some of the companies operating in the global lithium hydroxide market are FMC Corporation, Sociedad Quimica Minera (SQM), Jiangxi Ganfeng Lithium, Albemarle Lithium, Shandong Ruifu Lithium, Jiangxi Dongpeng New Materials Co. ltd., Sichuan Brivo lithium Materials Co. ltd., Leverton Lithium, Rockwood, Tianqi Lithium, etc. These players are currently focused on increasing their production capacity to meet the growing demand for lithium hydroxide. As an instance, in May 2016, FMC Corporation announced plans of tripling its existing lithium hydroxide production capacity. Furthermore, players are focused on research and development activities to gain a competitive advantage, for example, in July 2016, Neometals Ltd. progressed the commercialization of ELi Process that converts spodumene concentrate into high value battery grade lithium hydroxide.