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Johnson Matthey and Stena Recycling in lithium-ion battery recycling partnership

The British specialty chemical company Johnson Matthey (JM) has signed a Memorandum of Understanding with Swedish Stena Recycling Group to develop an efficient value chain in Europe for recycling of lithium-ion batteries and cell manufacturing materials.

If it results in a full partnership it will strengthen both companies positions in the their respective parts of the value chain.

JM is today a manufacturer of cathode material for lithium-ion batteries and is set to commence commissioning of the first plant for its proprietary nickel-rich cathode material eLNO in Konin, Poland in 2022. First commercial deliveries are expected in 2024. The company also recently announced a second plant in partnership with Finnish Minerals Group (owner of nickel and cobalt producer Terrafame and lithium producer Keliber) as well as supply agreement of nickel and cobalt with Nornickel.

Stena Recycling is part of the Stena Metall Group and is with 173 locations in seven countries one of the largest recycler of end-of-life vehicles and electronics in Northern Europe. The company has agreement with several large compliance schemes on collection of electronics and batteries as well as end-of-life vehicles. While Stena doesn't operate the actual authorized treatment facilities (ATFs), that dismantle the cars and possess the electric vehicle batteries, the company has close relationship with many of them. In 2020 Stena Recycling also launched the startup company Batteryloop which is specialized on energy storage solutions based on second life batteries with contracts with both Volvo Group and Volvo Cars. This puts Stena Recycling in a very good position to acquire batteries both from waste and reuse.

Stena Recycling is currently rolling out facilities and processes to recover materials from EV batteries for further refining. JM will develop additional process steps to produce fully refined materials suitable for use in the lithium-ion battery manufacturing process, increasing the recycled content of new batteries.

For JM the partnership with Stena Recycling adds another important stream of materials, which will not least be important by the end of this decade when the new EU regulation will require cell makers to use battery materials which partly are based on recycled content. For Stena the partnership with JM improves the company's ability to both acquire more batteries and increase margins as both companies now participate in the process to capture maxmium value from the waste.

In fact there are today only a few examples on similar fully integrated partnerships in the world, ranging from collection to new battery materials. Chinese GEM and Brunp, which both started with collection are today more focused on the actual material business although collection, not least in managed partnerships, is still an important component. Umicore covers sourcing and disassembly of batteries to battery production, while TES-Amm covers collection to material recovery. US-based Redwood Materials' partnerships with ERI and Panasonic also create a similar relationship.

Two other Nordic-based partnership will also cover the major parts of the value chain: Northvolt with its pre-processing joint venture with Norsk Hydro in Norway, Hydrovolt, operated by the collection organisation Batteriretur which currently most likely collect most EV batteries in Europe today, and Fortum which is expanding its second life activities while scaling up recycling co-located with cathode maker BASF in Finland.

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