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Lithium | Cargo

LITHIUM PRODUCTION

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Australia
The world’s top lithium producer in 2016. It produced 14,300 MT of lithium last year, up 200 MT from the year before.

Chile
Raked second for lithium production in 2016, increasing its production from 10,500 MT in 2015 to 12,000 MT last year.

Argentina
Significantly increased in 2016, reaching 5,700 MT; up from 3,600 MT in 2015. The USGS notes the increase was largely due to a new brine operation.

China
China production in 2015 and 2016 was 2,000 MT both years. While China’s production is relatively low, the country is the largest consumer of lithium as a result of its electronics manufacturing and electric vehicle industries

WHAT HAS A LITHIUM BATTERY

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Lithium Carbonate Equivalent (LCE) is used in products including pharmaceuticals, glass, polymers

◼ Laptops
◼ Cell phones
◼ Tesla car
◼ Hybrid cars
◼ Razor scooters
◼ Hover boards
◼ Drones
◼ RC cars/boats/planes
◼ Hair razors
◼ Data centers
◼ Pacemakers

DEMAND FOR LITHIUM

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Lithium is the hottest commodity on earth

It’s the only commodity to show positive price movement in 2015

Lithium is poised to continue on its upward trajectory, becoming the world’s new gasoline and earning the moniker of ‘’White Petroleum.”

The global lithium battery market is expected to by $40B by 2020.

TRANSPORTING LITHIUM

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Partially charged lithium batteries are packaged and put into one of two methods of transporting.

▪Traditional shipping pallet – as big as 10’ x 8’ x 8’.  Hundreds, if not thousands, are sandwiched together and at the bottom of air cargo planes.

▪Cargo containers called “Unit Load Devices” or ULDs. There are 16 sizes that fit into the cargo hold of all Boeing, Airbus and other aircraft manufacturers.  Each one is unique to the “position” it fits on the aircraft.

THE THREAT

◼ Lithium combusts on its own through heat
◼ The hotter something gets will ignite it
◼ It creates its own oxygen
◼ It burns at 1800°F
◼ A large Li-ion fire, such as in an EV, may need to burn out as water is ineffective. Water with copper material can be used, but this may not be available and is costly for fire halls.

When encountering a fire with a lithium-metal battery, only use a Class D fire extinguisher. Lithium-metal contains plenty of lithium that reacts with water and makes the fire worse. As the number of EV’s grows, so must the methods to extinguish such fires.

HOW

Lithium batteries are made to deliver high output with minimal weight. Battery components are designed to be lightweight, which translates into thin partitions between cells and a thin outer covering. The partitions are fairly fragile so they can be punctured. If the battery is damaged, a short occurs. This spark can ignite the highly reactive lithium. Batteries can heat to the point of thermal runaway. Here, the heat of the contents exerts pressure on the battery, potentially producing an explosion

FAA REPORT ON LITHIUM BATTERY FIRES

FedEx – Memphis incident
A shipment of lithium-ion batteries were placed in a cargo container and loaded onto the aircraft.The handlers smelled smoke and determined it was coming from the cargo container. The container was offloaded from the aircraft and burst into flames on the ramp.NTSB investigation determined the source of the fire was the lithium battery shipment

Primary Battery Major Findings
A relatively small fire source is sufficient start a lithium battery fire. The ignition of a single battery produces enough heat to ignite adjacent batteries. Halon 1301 is ineffective in suppressing a lithium battery fire.

Primary Battery Major Findings (2)
Halon 1301 chemically interacts with the burning lithium and electrolyte with no effect on fire intensity. Cargo liner is vulnerable to penetration by molten lithium. Batteries fuse together when exposed to flame,  promoting propagation between batteries