'Feather in our cap': Tees Valley Mayor Ben Houchen

Teesside plant cleared in victory for the North: Tees Valley Lithium wins planning permission to build Europe’s largest refinery

  • £250m plant to supply rapidly expanding electric battery industry
  • It’s the latest push for the Tees Valley, which has Britain’s only functioning free port.

‘Feather in our cap’: Tees Valley Mayor Ben Houchen

The government’s leveling agenda received a boost after Tees Valley Lithium was granted planning permission to build Europe’s largest refinery at Teesside.

The £250m plant, which will supply the rapidly expanding electric battery industry, will create 1,000 jobs.

It will start producing 96,000 tonnes of lithium hydroxide, a key component of batteries for almost all hybrid and electric cars, by 2025, and is expected to be able to meet 15 percent of Europe’s total demand.

It’s the latest push for Tees Valley, which has Britain’s only functioning free port, a post-Brexit scheme to create ten unregulated, customs-free industrial areas.

And it comes after Business Secretary Grant Shapps visited Teesside this month to unveil the UK’s first lithium refinery built by Trafigura-backed Green Lithium.

PD Ports’ £600m lithium refinery at Teesport will also create 1,000 jobs during construction and 250 when it comes online in 2025.

BP is moving forward with plans to build the UK’s largest green hydrogen facility at Teesside. And South Korea’s Seah Wind is investing £300 million in a large wind turbine factory.

Tees Valley Mayor Ben Houchen hailed ‘another feather in our cap’, adding: ‘It’s great for UK businesses, never mind Teesside, which has had a difficult ten years with the closure of the steelworks and the loss of thousands of jobs. It’s another example of Teesside being a place where you can come and see leveling up in action.’

It comes just three weeks after plans to turn the North East into a hub for green jobs and the battery industry were hit when Britishvolt, a battery company planning to develop a £3.8bn factory, got this month five weeks of emergency funds from the commodities giant. Glencore after preparing to appoint administrators in October.

Houchen said lithium production is crucial to the transition to net-zero emissions by 2050. The government wants to strengthen the electric vehicle supply chain before banning the sale of new gasoline and diesel cars in 2030.

Lithium is the key. It is used to make batteries for electric vehicles and for wind and solar plants. About 90 percent of the world’s lithium processing is done in China and there are no refineries in Europe.

Alkemy, which owns Tees Valley Lithium, said the consent was a “critical step” towards creating a whole new industry in Europe.