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Fortum commissions Europes first purpose-built hydrometallurgical recycling plant for batteries

The Finnish energy company Fortum which in 2017 started to develop a battery recycling business has started commercial operations in its state-of-the-art hydrometllurgical battery material recovery plant in Harjavalta, Finland. The new plant is the first industrial scale plant in Europe which is purpose-built for battery recycling.

The plant, which we estimate has a capacity of up to 10,000 tonnes of black mass is the final step in Fortums recycling ecosystem. The company has previously established pre-processing facilities in Germany and Finland and has been working closely with several battery collectors and sorters in both the Nordics and the contintal Europe.

The goal is to separate and process all critical materials in the black mass but the initial focus is on nickel sulphate and cobalt sulphate which the plant already has been producing in an initial rampup phase. The plant is yet recovering lithium but the plan is to add this step in 2025.

The plant is also able, and is already processing other industrial feedstocks, recovering critical battery materials from metal industry’s side streams in Tornio, with another novel hydrometallurgical process that produces a nickel intermediate product. This is an important strategy and capability as it will be a challenge for the European battery industry to meet the requirements on recycled content in 2031, even with a 100% collection rate.

The technology used by Fortum was originally developed by the chemical engineering company Crisolteq which also developed the process in Tornio for other production waste. Fortum acquired Crisolteq in 2020.

The establishment is important for European recycling as it is the first time a complete mechanical-hydrometallurgical supply has been set up in the region. Previously two pyrometallurgical-hydrometallurgical routes have available through Umicore in Belgium and Nikkelhütte in Germany, both also with cobalt and nickel products.

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