TES, a wholly-owned subsidiary of South Korean SK Ecoplant, and Galp, Portugal largest energy company, has signed an MOU to jointly develop recycling operations on the Iberian peninsula.
The company will target battery producers, automotive OEMs, EV fleet owners, and other sources of end-of-life batteries for secure battery material feedstock. In paralell the companies will also perform engineering studies aiming to design a process to convert the materials into recycled content for batteries.
Galp which is the largest oil and gas company in Portugal with considerable market share also in Spain, has over the the last years invested heavily in reneable energy and energy storage. The company has also partnered with Swedish battery manufacturer Northvolt to build a lithium processing plant in Setubal, Portugal through a €700M investment, sceduled for commissioining by the end of 2025. With the partnership with TES the company takes another signifcant step into the battery material industry, where the company can make use of its vast competence in processing technology and scale-up cababilities.
TES, one of the world's largest ITAD and e-waste recyclers, has both before and after it was acquired by SK Ecoplant in 2022 aggressively built out its network and capabilities in battery lifecycle management with pre-processing plants established in Australia, China and soon in the the Netherlands. Only two days before the announcemnt of the GALP MOU the company revealed the plans to open another pre-processing plant in China, in the Jiangsu province through a joint venture with Zhong-Yi. In addition to this SK Ecoplant has become the largest shareholder in Ascend Elements and has initiated a partnership with the leading Chinese precursor manucturers, CNGR.
While the logical outcome of the partnership should be a hydrometallurgical facility, building on GALP's expertise and involvement in lithium production, the partners have not fully committed to neither technology or which stage in the recycling chain they will operate at but says it may include both mechanical and chemical processing.
The announcement came only two days after Glencore announced a joint venture with Li-Cycle to build a hydrometallurgical facility on Sardinia, in Italy. Glencore, was also less than a month ago announcing a partnership with Iberdrola to set up a pre-processing plant either in Spain or Portugal.
This means that commitments to build out recycling capabilities in Southern Europe has signficantly increased only latest months. As we were writing at the time of Glencore's announcement:
"Spain and Portugal has so far only collection and sorting of lithium-ion batteries while the actual processing has been done in other European countries. In 2026 the capacity of planned projects however is as much as 53,000 tonnes of intake, already without the facility announced today. Spain has also for some years been a gate to Asia for battery traders and there are additional players evaluating the market.
In Europe the pre-processing capacity is currently increasing rapidly with close to 400,000 tonnes of capacity announced and anticipated for 2025. Circular Energy Storage's forecast for material available for recycling is currently just over 148,000 tonnes the same year. A large part of that material is already committed..
In Spain and Portugal it will take a long time until large battery volumes from electric vehicles will become available. The markets have been lagging signficantly compared to the rest of Europe and despite a signficant increase the first quarter this year Spain and Portugal together placed fewer battery electric vehicles (BEV) on the market than Sweden alone. The majority of these vehicles will remain on the roads until the later part of the next decade. Instead the new partnership is eying the rapid expansion of EV manufacturing in the region where both Stellantis and Volkswagen Group is planning to build electric cars and Volkswagen's battery company PowerCo and Chinese CALB are planning to produce batteries. This will inevitably generate scrap which needs to processed."
What is clear is that we start to see the fire power being used from some giants in the sector, like Glencore and SK Ecoplant, alongside well-funded startups like Li-Cycle, to establish strong precense in the key markets, although it might take long time until materials rise to the levels the plants are built for.
Read more about the MOU here.