Liberal stimulus plan a chance to reinvigorate Canadian steel industry – by Bill Missen (Globe and Mail – November 3, 2015)

The Globe and Mail is Canada’s national newspaper with the second largest broadsheet circulation in the country. It has enormous influence on Canada’s political and business elite.

Bill Missen is former senior vice-president at Stelco Canada.

Even before it is formally installed, the newly elected Liberal government faces the pressure of high expectations – especially when it comes to infrastructure spending. It’s a platform promise with the potential to provide much-needed economic stimulus by doubling the public works budget to $125-billion over the next decade.

By implementing this spending plan, the new government has an exceptional opportunity to extend a lifeline to Canada’s struggling steel industry. But it is an opportunity that could easily be squandered.

Before the first dime of public money is spent, a strong made-in-Canada supply policy needs to be firmly in place. Without that, new jobs will not be created and existing ones will not be preserved.

Read more

Lithium – Lifting the Spirits – by Christopher Ecclestone (InvestorIntel.com – October 28, 2015)

http://investorintel.com/

You don’t get to hear a specialty metal mentioned often in a Woody Allen movie, but Lithium has managed to score a mention more than a few times. Of course it’s not that the gnomic director has suddenly been converted to a new variety of battery but rather that so many of his characters (and maybe his audience) need a pick-me up of some Lithium to cure (or ameliorate) what ails them.

Then again until 20 years ago the only mention the public ever heard of Lithium was in reference to its medical properties, even though its ceramic applications were massively more important volume-wise. Indeed Lithium was the word on everyone’s lips pre-1950 when it was a standard ingredient in 7-Up (the “up” being literal) and farther back it went into Lithia Coke (give me that over Cherry Coke any day!).

Indeed, it has been speculated (and even tried in some places) that putting Lithium into water supplies might lift people’s mood and reduce suicides. In 1990, a study in 27 counties in Texas found lower rates of not only suicide but also homicide and rape in those where the drinking water contained lithium. In 2009, research in Japan found lower suicide rates in areas with lithium in the water.

Read more

Lithium prices tipped to rise 20 per cent by 2017 on demand for electric cars – by Peter Ker (Sydney Morning Herald – October 27, 2015)

http://www.smh.com.au/

Prices for lithium are forecast to rise strongly in the next two years, with widespread adoption of electric cars tipped to be a game changer for the third element on the periodic table.

While most demand for lithium carbonate comes from industrial companies producing ceramics and glass, Citi analyst Matthew Schembri believes demand will rise significantly when electric vehicles become mainstream and need the commodity for lithium-ion batteries.

Citi is very bullish about electric cars, and forecasts production of pure electric models (not hybrids) like the Nissan Leaf or the Tesla Model S to rise from about 150,000 in 2015 to about 290,000 in 2016. By 2020, Citi expects 1.04 million electric cars to be in production, implying sevenfold growth over five years.

In an extensive study of what the boom in electric cars will mean for lithium carbonate markets, Mr Schembri said demand for the commodity would rise almost 65 per cent over the next five years.

Read more

PGMs are the unchallenged metals of future – by Roger Baxter (MiningMx.com – October 26, 2015)

http://www.miningmx.com/

Roger Baxter is CEO of the Chamber of Mines of South Africa.

[miningmx.com] – WHILE platinum and its other group metals grapple with current price weaknesses and market difficulties, it can be all-too easy to overlook the metals’ longer-term prospects in this world of rapid technological advance. In my view, platinum group metals (PGMs) are the unchallenged metals of the future.

Let’s start with their contribution to ‘greening’ the environment.

I am not going to comment on the fracas surrounding the Volkswagen’s issue. What I would like to remind everyone of is that – on average and because of PGM catalytic converters – emissions from 100 cars sold in 2015 are the equivalent of one car sold in the 1960s.

PGM vehicle emission catalysts are so successful that they convert 99% of combustion engine pollutants such as HC, CO, NOx and particulates to harmless outputs.

Read more

Ford’s F-150: Lots of Aluminum, Plenty of Awesome – by Kyle Stock (Bloomberg News – October 19, 2015)

http://www.bloomberg.com/

The gutsiest decision in the auto industry is beginning to pay off.

Three people, two dogs, a pile of gear, and a 3,000-pound boat. That’s how we tested the all-new aluminum Ford F-150. The result? Mileage ticked down from 21 miles per gallon to 13, as you’d expect, and the floor mats collected a layer of Labrador fur.

Ford’s famous pickup, the best-selling vehicle in America since the Reagan administration, has still got it. Even after Ford swapped out almost every steel body panel for a lightweight aluminum alloy. Even after it added a cute, sedan-size 2.7-liter engine.

Even after Chevrolet and a legion of gravel-throated truck fans deemed it wimpy and precious and expensive to fix. “It seems like a big change initially, but when people see the difference, they’ll ask ‘Why didn’t they do this sooner?’” said Michael Levine, the company’s truck talker.

Read more

Megafactory trend sparks ‘arms race’ in battery sector – by Simon Rees (MiningWeekly.com – September 29, 2015)

http://www.miningweekly.com/page/americas-home

TORONTO (miningweekly.com) – Tesla Motors’ so-called ‘gigafactory’ has sparked an “arms race” in the battery sector, Benchmark Mineral Intelligence MD Simon Moores told an audience attending the Toronto leg of the company’s World Tour 2015, in which Mining Weekly Online participated.

The gigafactory, now being built in Nevada, was designed to meet Tesla’s future battery requirements, either for electric vehicles (EV) or its Powerwall and Powerpack technologies.

“Battery majors, such as LG Chem or Samsung, have all responded with expansion plans for their new plants. Companies like BYD are also building their own battery plants. Boston Power is looking to expand, while Foxconn said they were going to enter battery manufacturing,” Moores stated.

“The megafactory trend is one the battery industry has not seen before. This is not an industry saying it expects to expand by 10% or 20% over the next three years – it’s at an order of magnitude that’s much bigger,” he added.

Read more

How Tesla sparked the latest race for bigger, better batteries – by Michael McCullough (Canadian Business Magazine – September 1, 2015)

http://www.canadianbusiness.com/

Battery makers are suddenly finding themselves with an explosion of new markets to service—both big and small

You can be forgiven for thinking Tesla Motors is a car company. Yes, it started out making electric cars, but only because personal transportation is the lowest-hanging fruit in tackling the global energy and emissions problem. In fact, Tesla’s core mission is to make big batteries inexpensive and practical for any number of uses.

Last spring, founder Elon Musk unveiled a new product called Power­wall, a battery pack starting at US$3,000 that’s designed to power your whole home for 10 hours or more. If you have a solar panel on your roof, it will allow you to store the electricity produced during the day and use it in the evening to cook, do the laundry and max out your electronic devices.

Even if you don’t have solar panels, you may live in one of the growing number of jurisdictions where electricity costs rise and fall at different times of the day. You could save money on your utility bill by charging your Powerwall during the wee hours and drawing from it later.

Read more

How a new battery revolution will change your life – by David J. Unger (Christian Science Monitor – August 30, 2015)

http://www.csmonitor.com/

A new generation of super cells promises to reshape the future of energy.

CAMBRIDGE, MASS.; AND ARGONNE, ILL. — It’s probably safe to say that freshman chemistry rarely ranks among college students’ most memorable courses. An overcrowded lecture hall teems with 18-year-olds with chins propped on palms. Eyelids droop at the mere mention of Planck’s constant or Bohr’s model of hydrogen. Yawns abound.

So when Donald Sadoway began teaching introductory chemistry at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology in Cambridge in 1995, he wanted to liven things up. Sure, he still lectured on the properties of atomic arrangements in crystalline and amorphous solids, but he did it an unusual way: He peppered his presentations with chemistry jokes only an MIT undergrad would understand and wove literature and art into the rigid lines and squares of the periodic table.

A lifelong music lover, Dr. Sadoway paired each lecture with a relevant tune. He’d play Handel’s “Water Music” in a lecture on hydrogen bonding and Aretha Franklin’s “Chain of Fools” in a class on polymers. For DNA – that famous double-helix spiral – he’d play Hank Ballard’s version of “The Twist.”

Read more

Lithium, the love story – by Antoine Dion Ortega and Pierrick Blin (Corporate Knights.com – June 16, 2014)

http://www.corporateknights.com/

Purmamarca, ARGENTINA – When Tesla Motors revealed in February it would build the world’s largest lithium-ion battery plant, shares in major lithium producers such as SQM, FMC and Rockwood – all active in South America’s so-called lithium triangle – got a noticeable boost.

Tesla pledged to invest more than $5 billion in its factory, construction of which would begin in 2017 with an eye to producing 500,000 batteries a year. Analysts now expect the Palo Alto, California-based electric carmaker to strike a strategic lithium supply agreement in the near future.

When that deal comes through, it could be huge. Tesla alone might represent an 8 per cent increase in global demand for lithium, and that’s good news for countries in the lithium mining game. Yet it’s unclear to what extent South America’s resource-rich nations will truly benefit from it, and whether the foreseen “white gold rush” will be a sustainable one.

Just a few days before Tesla’s announcement, Bolivian President Evo Morales was dressed in white overalls, carefully examining a battery cell during the inauguration of a pilot manufacturing plant, located within the 10,000 square kilometre salt flats of Uyuni.

Read more

Could lithium become the new oil? – by Vikram Mansharamani (PBS Newshour – October 15, 2015)

http://www.pbs.org/

Vikram Mansharamani is a lecturer in the Program on Ethics, Politics & Economics at Yale University and a senior fellow at the Mossavar-Rahmani Center for Business and Government at the Harvard Kennedy School.

I recently spoke with a group of Nigerian leaders who were visiting Yale. I expressed to them my confidence in the long-term outlook for oil demand. A booming middle class in the emerging markets, I argued, would consistently demand more fuels. They were engaged throughout my talk and cared about many different topics, but kept returning one.

“OK, but Vikram, what will oil prices be next year?” I answered honestly, “I don’t know.”

Several other questions came up, but then another person asked, “OK, very compelling presentation, thank you. But do you think oil prices will be higher or lower next year than they are today?” Again, I pleaded ignorance.

The process continued, and eventually, everyone was laughing about the persistent focus on oil prices.

Read more

Linamar Corp’s biggest deal yet bets that the cars of the future are aluminum – by Kristine Owram (National Post – October 16, 2015)

The National Post is Canada’s second largest national paper.

Canadian auto-parts maker Linamar Corp. is betting that aluminum will continue to replace steel as automakers strive to produce more fuel-efficient vehicles, announcing the biggest acquisition in its 50-year history Thursday.

The Guelph, Ont.-based company has made an offer to acquire France’s Montupet SA for $1.16 billion plus debt, subject to shareholder and regulatory approval.

Montupet makes complex aluminum castings for the global automotive industry with a particular focus on cylinder heads, complementing Linamar’s existing aluminum machining business.

“Aluminum is becoming more and more prevalent in the vehicle,” Linamar CEO Linda Hasenfratz said in an interview from Paris, where she announced the deal.

Read more