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  • Writer's picture@ Cynthia Adina Kirkwood

Portugal: Have Your Say on Lithium-Battery Plant by March 20

Updated: Mar 15


The economy of the municipality of Sines depends on energy, oil refining port activity, fishing, tourism and trade.

 

A proposal for a lithium-battery industrial unit, which China Aviation Lithium Battery Technology (CALB) plans to develop in an industrial zone of Sines, Setubal District, is available for public comment through Participa from February 28 to March 20.


Since July 2015, Participa is the official portal, where the public consultation processes run by the Ministry of Environment and Climate Action are made available to citizens, residents and other stakeholders.


Please see below for instructions.


Proposed Lithium-Battery Plant


China Aviation Lithium Battery Technology’s lithium battery production unit would have a capacity of 15 gigawatt-hours (GWh), according to CALB: Proposta de Definaçao de Ambito do EIA da Unidade Industrial de Baterias de Litio (January 16). By comparison, a production capacity of 60 gigawatt-hours would supply batteries for about 1 million electric vehicles, Swedish lithium-battery producer, Northvolt, told CNBC (December 29, 2021).


Production would be guaranteed to begin by the end of 2025, according to the proposal.


China Aviation Lithium Battery Technology’s proposed factory would occupy about 50 hectares of a 100-hectare area on the grounds of the Sines Industrial and Logistics Zone (ZIL).


“In the preparation of the EIA (Environmental Impact Assessment), this area (would) be expanded to better assess the influence of the project on the surrounding area,” states the proposal.


CALB submitted a Scope Definition Proposal (PDA), which is preparation for an Environmental Impact Assessment, to the Portuguese Environment Agency (APA). This type of preliminary proposal allows the firm to propose the scope of work to be carried out in the Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) as well as the methodologies used in assessing environmental factors.


Aurora Lithium-Conversion Plant Proposal


Meanwhile, the Portuguese Environmental Agency (APA) approved the development of a Scope Definition Proposal (PDA) into an Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) for a €700 million lithium conversion industrial unit, which Galp and Northvolt have proposed as a joint venture in Setubal.


Public comment on the lithium conversion unit ended on September 13, 2022. Analysis of the consultation ended on February 15.


The Portuguese Environmental Agency said: “It is considered, in methodological terms, the Proposal for the Definition of Scope (PDA) can serve as a guide for the preparation of the respective Study of Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA), despite the degree of uncertainty that still exists on the project level.”


The lithium conversion plant, which is called Aurora Lithium, would lead to the creation of 200 direct jobs and 3,000 jobs in the region of Setubal, according to the proposal, which cites an estimated construction phase of 24 months and an operation phase of 25 years.


China Aviation Lithium Battery Technology


The Scope Definition Proposal (PDA) of China Aviation Lithium Battery Technology’s battery plant states that there are five stages in manufacturing lithium batteries that would take place in five linked buildings: production of electrodes; cell manufacturing; formation/assembly; packaging, and manufacture of casings.”


In addition to the battery production process, there would be several support infrastructures, including a cooling tower, an oil boiler system for heat transfer, a steam boiler system, a dehumidifier, a hot water system, a gas extraction system and a firefighting control center.


All of the energy used in the factory would be from renewable sources, including solar energy from photovoltaic systems installed on rooftops or by “acquiring it with guarantees of origin by suppliers, either by promoting renewable energy projects in surrounding areas or purchase of energy”.


“It is expected that the industrial unit (would) consume 450,000,000 KWh annually.”


Water, Air, Soil, Noise


The environmental factors that would be examined in the Environmental Impact Assessment include water, soil and air, states the proposal. Water considerations in the EIA would be the quantity and quality; aquifers, and potential contamination of groundwater and surface water.


Water would be supplied by the company, Aguas de Santo Andre. It would include water for industrial use in operations and cooling, and water for human consumption in offices and the canteen, and for hygiene and safety uses.


Industrial water consumption is estimated at 1,788,500 cubic meters per year. Human water consumption is estimated at 182,500 cubic meters per year.


Potential soil contamination would be studied as well as ambient air quality, due to greenhouse gas emissions and other polluting gases resulting from industrial process as well as from the transportation of materials and the final product.


A potential increase in concentrations of pollutants such as particulate matter, carbon dioxide, carbon monoxide, sulfur dioxide, volatile organic compounds and nitrogen oxides emitted by industrial activity, also would be studied in an environmental report.


Human Health, Economic Health


“These factors may somehow, when associated with the increased noise levels, contribute to possible health impact of the resident population closest to the area to be intervened. . . .”


Finally, the social component must be taken into consideration, according to the proposal. There may be negative impacts on the health of neighboring residents due to the construction and operation of the factory. However, there would also be positive consequences because the local population would benefit significantly from the creation of direct and indirect jobs.


“The importance of the project at the national level should be noted. It is expected that this factory would have a very significant relevance in economic terms for the country, namely due to its importance in terms of foreign investments and potential wealth generation.”


Several Phases


Nuno Gameiro, who represents China Aviation Lithium Battery Technology in Portugal, told Lusa news agency (November 3, 2022) that the factory would be built in several phases:


“The first phase of investment, the value of which was not announced, ‘is to accommodate the order portfolio that (the company) already has at this time’ in Europe.


“In a second phase, in 2028, the company planned to expand the facilities, occupying the entire 100 hectares of land, which would allow it to ‘increase from 15 to 45 gigawatt-hours (GWh).


“If everything is going well, there will be the third phase to double the factory . . . and another 100 hectares would be needed. So it would cover 200 hectares.”


China Aviation Lithium Battery Technology signed a non-binding memorandum of understanding with a subsidiary of the Portuguese Agency for Investment and Foreign Trade, reported Lusa (November 3, 2022).


According to Expresso (November 3, 2022), the mayor of Sines, Nuno Mascarenhas, said in statements to Lusa:


“Sines is one of the privileged locations for CALB, since we have all the conditions here, but (the memorandum of understanding) is only the initial intention.” Noting the competition that exists for this type of project, the mayor said that “it will be good news” for Sines, if the project comes to fruition, as it is “a significant investment”, without specifying the monetary amount.


Who Is China Aviation Lithium Battery Technology?


China Aviation Lithium Battery Technology was the third largest Chinese battery manufacturer for electric cars in 2021, Lusa reported, according to the China Automotive Power Battery Industry Innovation Alliance, an industry association.


China made about 75 percent of the world’s lithium batteries in 2021, according to the International Energy Agency, reported E&E News, EnergyWire (January 20). E&E News is owned by Politico.


In December 2021, China Aviation Lithium Battery Technology announced the signing of an agreement with the German real estate and construction consultant, Drees & Sommer, to plan the first factory in Europe, reported Expresso (November 3, 2022).


Speaking to Lusa (November 3, 2022), Nuno Mascarenhas, the mayor of Sines, said that aicep Global Parques, which manages Sines Industrial and Logistics Zone, Setubal Business Park and Sintra Business Park, “does not have these (100) hectares available”. “Parallel work” is being carried out to guarantee the installation of this unit in the Sines Industrial and Logistics Zone (ZILS). “That’s why we’ve been working for a few months now to make land available that was being managed by other entities within the ZILS Urbanization Plan, which would allow this installation.”


In 2012, located in Jiangsu, China Aviation Lithium Battery Technology expanded industrial distribution, according to its website. In 2018, it restructured itself to focus on the passenger vehicle market. From 2019 to 2022, the company expanded production facilities into nine other cities in China. In 2022, it was listed on the Hong Kong Stock Market.


The firm’s website says: “At present, CALB has set up several industrial bases to build industrial clusters in the Yangtze River Delta, Southwest, Central and the Greater Bay Area to achieve a full range of domestic industrial layout, and make overseas industrial layout to become a leading global enterprise!”


The headquarters of CALB USA in in Chino, California.


China Aviation Lithium Battery Technology states in its proposal:


“The Lithium Battery Industrial Unit project represents an opportunity for economic development, induced by the energy transition, in particular, the gradual replacement of vehicles with combustion engines by electric vehicles. In general, the production of lithium batteries will contribute to the global energy transition and for the development of the European value chain of batteries, being essential for the development of the national and European GDP.”


Lithium-Battery Firms


Oliver Wayman, a management consulting firm founded in New York by two former Booz Allen Hamilton partners in 1984, wrote in Battery Manufacturing in Europe: Is There a Second Chance?:


“The landscape for lithium-ion battery manufacturing is dominated by Asian players, which account for 89 percent of global manufacturing capacity. In contrast, European firms hold a paltry 3 percent share. The Asian giants are entering Europe to meet local demand. . . . Chinese LIB (lithium-ion battery) makers capitalized on tailwinds to catch up with Japanese and Korean players.”


Companies making lithium batteries in Europe are LG Energy Solution Wroclaw in Poland and Northvolt in Sweden. Tesla has a pilot project in Germany.


LG Energy Solution Wroclaw is the biggest manufacturing site in Europe, reported CEEnergyNews (November 28, 2022). It has the potential to power 700,000 electric cars annually, and it employs about 10,000 people.


“The size of the factory draws closer parallels with a small, yet growing, city rather than an industrial site – with a medical center, learning and educational facilities, sports hubs and even fire brigades available on site, on a permanent basis.


Deals With Car Companies


“As part of its operations, the center’s specialized training is strengthened by close cooperation with automotive manufacturers – including joint venture deals with General Motors Stellantis, Honda and Volkswagon.”


Swedish battery-maker Northvolt, founded by two former Tesla employees, produced its first lithium-ion battery cell at its factory in Skelleftea by the end of 2021, reported CNBC (December 29, 2021).


“Despite being less than 6 years old, Northvolt has signed more than $30 billion worth of contracts with customers, including carmakers BMW, Volkswagon, Volvo and Polestar.”


China Aviation Lithium Battery Technology’s executive director “said that the factory has to be open in 2025” so that the batteries can “leave Sines for Europe the following year to be installed in several European cars, by the end of the first quarter” of 2026, Nuno Gameiro, the company’s representative told Lusa (November 3, 2022).


According to autoevolution (November 4, 2022):


“Apart from exporting most of the production, the capacity expansion may ensure AutoEuropa – Volkswagon’s plant in Portugal – has a steady supply of cells should it have the chance to go electric.”


Tesla


Tesla has a pilot project, where it is trying to make its own battery cells,” reported CNBN (December 29, 2021), “but it currently uses batteries from CATL, Samsung, Panasonic and LG in its energy storage systems and vehicles.


More recently, Automotive News: Europe (September 15, 2022) reported:


“Tesla is pausing its plans to make battery cells in Germany as it looks at qualifying for U.S. electric vehicle and battery manufacturing tax credits, the Wall Street Journal reported.


“Tesla has not commented on the Wall Street Journal report.”


Lithium Source


On a separate but related issue, what would be the source of lithium for a conversion plant or battery factory in Portugal?


The economic benefits of “white gold” have not persuaded most people in Portuguese communities with potentially large lithium deposits to approve of mining. Many residents oppose mining because of air pollution, noise and the enormous demand for water as well as its threat on their way of life. I am one of them.


Portugal is not the only country where people contend with threatened land grabs.


“It is a struggle that communities across the world have faced: stopping companies from grabbing their lands, polluting their environment and forcing them to relocate. Whan a major investor sees an opportunity to profit from a mine or large-scale agriculture, long-established ways of life, and even land ownership rights, often prove to mean little,” reported The New York Times (August 9, 2022).


However, “it is changing in a handful of countries”, according to The Times.


Serbia, for example, canceled all lithium mining licenses with the multinational Rio Tinto in January 2022 in response to huge protests against pollution, reported Le Monde diplomatique (November 2022).


How to Participate Until March 20 First, you must register if you have not already done so. If you have, go to #8: 1. Click on Registo in the upper right-hand corner; 2. Click on Individual; 3. Fill in your name, email, password, confirmation of password and, from a dropdown menu, your concelho (municipality); 4. Tick the Agreement with Conditions on the bottom left-hand corner; 5. Click Submeter (Submit) in the bottom right-hand corner; 6. You will receive an email; 7. Choose the issue, “PDA do EIA da “Unidade Industrial de Baterias de Litio” ; 8. There are three mustard yellow boxes: Participiar (Participate), Seguir (Follow) and Partilhar (Share); 9. Click on the first and choose from a drop-down menu. Click on DISCORDANCIA if you object and CONCORDANCIA if you support it. 10. You may add text; 11. Click on Submeter; 12. Done. Muito obrigada! (Thank you very much)!



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