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Sungeel Hitech opens Europe's largest EV battery recycling plant in Hungary

Updated: Jul 12, 2021


The South Korean battery recycling company Sungeel Hitech will the 7th of July open a pre-processing plant for EV batteries in Hungary with a capacity of 50,000 tonnes of battery packs (equal to around 25,000 tonnes of battery cells). The facility will by far be the largest in Europe so far. Full operation is expected in August this year.

Sungeel Hitech, which is one of the largest recyclers of lithium-ion batteries in the world operates facilities in South Korea, China, Malaysia, India and Hungary with a combined pre-processing capacity of 50,000 tonnes (cell level) or about 11 GWh. The 10,000 tpa plant in Hungary outside of Budapest has been focused entirely on production waste, strategically located close to the plants of Samsung SDI and SK Innovation. The new plant, located in Bátonyterenye close to the Slovakian border, will however be focused on recycling of EV batteries. In the region several car manufacturers such as BMW, Audi and Kia are producing cars, and increasingly electric cars, which means there also will be more waste generated from the production, tests and R&D activities.

The total investment in the new plant is according to Korean media 35Bn Won (€26M or $30M) of which the Hungarian Investment Agency (HIPA) has committed 2.7 billion Hungarian Forints (€7.6M or $9M). Media reports tax credits of €4.4M.

The operation will be equipped to efficiently discharge batteries, disassemble and sort material before cells are shredded. The material will then be exported to Sungeel's plant in South Korea where it is treated in a hydrometallurgical process and turned into specialty chemicals (nickel, cobalt and manganese sulphates as well as lithium carbonate or lithium phosphate) to be brought back to the battery value chain.

In addition to the new plant in Hungary Sungeel is also planning a new recycling plant in Poland in a joint project with the South Korean cathode manufacturer POSCO, with the target to process material from LG Energy Solutions' plant in Wrowclaw. POSCO established the company Poland Legnica Sourcing Center with base in Złotoryja, one hour's drive from LG's plant. The plant will be operated by Sungeel and most probably have a processing capacity of up to 20,000 tonnes per year. So far the project has met a wall of protests in a similar way like in Endicott, New York where Sungeel had to abort their plans for a recycling facility due to people's fear of toxic emissions. There are now indications that the plant might go ahead which would mean Sungeel would soon operate the three largest pre-processing plants in Europe with direct access to waste material from several battery manufacturers in Europe.

The material processed in Zlotoryja will just like in the two Hungarian facilities be transported to South Korea for material recovery although in this case it will go to POSCO and Chinese Huayou Cobalt's new recycling plant in Gwangyang, South Korea. Meanwhile Ecopro, another Korean cathode manufacturer, reported that they have commissioned their new recycling plant in Pohang, South Korea and received a first batch of 15,000 tonnes of production waste from LG's Wrowclaw plant for recycling.

At the inauguration ceremony in Hungary Sungeel's CEO Kang-myung Lee announced that the company will open a hydrometallurgical plant in Europe in due course. The location is yet to be confirmed. Mr Kang-myung Lee also announced a third plant in Hungary is on its way as well as pre-processing plant in Germany.

During the presentation of the K-Battery development strategy the 8th of July by South Korea's president Moon Jae-in, Sungeel signed a cooperation agreement with SK Innovation, Samsung SDI, LG Energy Solutions and POSCO.

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