The Belgium-based battery material and recycling specialist Umicore will partner with the newly formed battery manufacturer ACC to recycle the production waste generated at ACC’s first pilot plant in Nersac, France.
ACC was founded as a joint venture between Total Energies, which in 2016 acquired French battery maker SAFT, and the car maker group that today is Stellantis with its Opel brand as main partner. In September 2021 Mercedes-Benz also joined the consortium. The company will produce battery cells at its two planned full scale cell manufacturing plants in Douvrin, France and Kaiserslautern, Germany. While the exact cathode chemistries haven’t been revealed Stellantis is aiming for two routes, one cobalt-free cathode based, on iron and manganese, and one nickel and manganese cathode which most probably also will contain cobalt.
By working with Umicore ACC aims to get a better understanding of both the recycling of production waste as such but also of the recycling of their future end-of-life batteries.
For Umicore the cooperation with ACC also marks the starting point for its updated technology and, most likely, expanded recycling capacity in Hoboken, Belgium. According to the company the updated process will offer:
Significantly improved metallurgical process with increased extraction efficiency of cobalt, nickel and copper to now reach over 95% yield for a wide variety of battery chemistries.
New first-of-its-kind technology to recover most of the lithium.
Automated material flow minimizing manual handling to further increase process robustness and efficiency.
The recovered metals will be delivered in battery-grade quality at the end of the Umicore recycling process allowing them to be re-circulated into the production of new Li-ion batteries.
Umicore says the improved steps will be available already in 2022.
Umicore has been recycling lithium-ion batteries since the early 2000s, initially in cooperation with the Swedish metal smelter Scanarc in Hofors. In 2011 Umicore commissioned its state-of-the-art dedicated smelting process for lithium-ion and nickel metal hydride batteries in Hoboken in what the company has labelled a pilot process with its 7,000 tpa capacity. After smelting an alloy of copper, nickel and cobalt has been further refined in the company’s hydrometallurgical process in Olen, Belgium. Lithium has since 2018 been recovered from the slag. Aluminium has been lost in the process.
Umicore has already been processing different production waste streams from LG Energy Solutions’ plant in Poland. It’s also in Poland where Umicore is setting up its first European cathode material production, which, together with its precursor production in Finland, from its planned commissioning mid 2022 will constitute the first whole battery material value chain in Europe. In December Umicore announced the plans to enter into a joint venture with Volkswagen to produce precursors and cathode material with the aim to produce material for 20 GWh of battery capacity in 2025 with subsequent increase the following years.
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