Quebec’s Battery Industry Poised for Major Expansion with $15 Billion in New Projects

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, centre, looks at a prismatic cell, as he poses with from left to right, Quebec Economy and Innovation Minister Pierre Fitzgibbon, Quebec Premier Francois Legault, Minister of Innovation, Science and Industry Francois-Philippe Champagne and co-founder, CEO, Northvolt Peter Carlsson, following an announcement that Northvolt Batteries North America will build a new electric vehicle battery manufacturing plant near Montreal, Thursday, Sept. 28, 2023. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Christinne Muschi

The battery industry in Quebec is set to witness a remarkable surge in investments, potentially reaching $30 billion in the coming years, according to Guy LeBlanc, President and CEO of Investissement Québec. The current projects announced in the sector already represent nearly $11 billion, with an additional $4 billion in investments expected to be disclosed shortly.

Prospects of Future Investments

LeBlanc, in a statement ahead of his scheduled address to the business community in Bécancour, mentioned that discussions are ongoing for another $15 billion, which will be announced over the next few years. These investments, as reported by The Canadian Press, are primarily focused on expanding the capacity of existing plants. “Essentially, these are phase two and phase three projects to increase the capacity of the plants already announced,” LeBlanc said.

Completion of Quebec’s Battery Ecosystem

The Investissement Québec head considers the majority of the Quebec battery ecosystem to be complete. However, he acknowledged that there are still “small missing pieces” that the government is working on, such as the production of synthetic graphite to complement the graphite production of Nouveau Monde Graphite.

Water rushes through the Carillon Hydro electric dam in Carillon, Que. PHOTO BY RYAN REMIORZ/THE CANADIAN PRESS

Energy Capacity and Future Directions

With the current limitations in Quebec’s energy capacity, LeBlanc indicated that the province would not pursue large cell manufacturers. This strategic decision aligns with Quebec’s broader energy management and industrial capacity planning.

BASF’s Project and its Impact on Quebec

The project by German giant BASF, announced in spring 2022 for completion in Bécancour by 2025, is currently in limbo. Despite this, LeBlanc believes that the project has significantly contributed to Quebec’s visibility in the international battery industry. He remarked, “BASF’s announcement was an important factor,” emphasizing its role in attracting other players to Quebec.

Government Intervention and Economic Spin-offs

The Quebec government’s intervention in the battery industry, which includes loans and equity investments, has faced scrutiny from environmentalists and the opposition. LeBlanc defended this approach, noting the potential economic benefits and stating, “In theory, if these projects come to fruition and these private investors make money, we’ll make money too.”