Battery Recycling

Products and Markets

RECYCLING FOR THE FUTURE

Neometals has developed a proprietary and sustainable process for the recovery of valuable constituents from scrap and end-of-life lithium-ion batteries (LIBs).

Industry review

LIB recycling sees metallurgical and mechanical processes used separately, or in combination, to recover valuable metals and materials from end of life and production scrap LIBs. Concerns regarding the efficiency of processing and the need to sustainably dispose and recover potentially hazardous materials sets the stage for huge LIB recycling opportunities.

The Neometals LIB recycling process targets the predominant LIB chemistries, with LCO (lithium cobalt oxide) and NMC/NCA (nickel manganese cobalt/nickel cobalt aluminium) cathode batteries targeted from electric vehicles, energy storage systems and from consumer electronics.

While the use of LIB anode materials generally remains constant, cathode compositions tend to differ based on end use application and performance requirements. The key minerals targeted for recovery by Neometals are as follows:

  • Lithium;
  • Cobalt;
  • Nickel;
  • Copper;
  • Iron;
  • Aluminium;
  • Graphite; and
  • Manganese.

Plastics, aluminium foil (the cathode substrate) and copper foil (the anode substrate) are separated early. The balance of materials are recovered and refined into industrial and high purity chemicals for sale, where possible, directly back into the LIB supply chain.

Value chain

The LIB value chain diagram below shows the relationship between participants starting at chemical manufacture (using recycled material feed or refined minerals) and works its way to consumer products, disposal and recycling to support the notion of a ‘circular economy’.

Segments

Applications by Neometals target battery chemistry:

  • Portable Electronics – cathodes comprising lithium cobalt oxide (“LCO”) are the preferred technology in portable consumer electronics; and
  • Electric Vehicles – cathodes supporting batteries that deliver strong energy density for extended driving range are trending towards the base metal rich nickel-manganese-cobalt (“NMC”) and nickel-cobalt-aluminium (“NCA”) types.

Recovered scrap materials:

  • Plastic for applications like road base
  • Steel for scrap
  • Aluminium foil for scrap
  • Copper foil for scrap

Key recycling service partners:

  • Electrode and battery manufacturers
  • Consumer electronics companies
  • Electronic waste aggregators and collectors
  • Automotive companies

Chemical product sales:

  • Cathode precursor and LIB manufacturers
  • Chemical companies

Supply and demand

LIB recycling market is part of several segments. Supply and demand can be looked at under the following categories:

1. LIBs

There is little argument from analysts and industry participants that LIB demand is expected to grow very strongly as we see the following unfold:

  • ticket price parity for electric and ICE vehicles;
  • capacity expansions for the production of refined chemicals used in battery electrodes;
  • commissioning of the next wave of planned LIB mega-factories; and
  • the arrival of deadlines set by countries and vehicle manufacturers to phase out ICE vehicles.

Supply of LIBs is dictated by a need for forward looking cohesion across the supply chain where future demand requires stakeholder expansion decisions many years in advance. In 2019 the market is confronting the growing prospect of mineral and material supply deficits  as the EV revolution gathers pace.

2. The urban resource

In 2019 the demand for production scrap and end of life industrial LIB batteries is thought to outstrip supply. EV adoption is at the early stages of predicted strong growth and given the warranted lifecycle of LIBs and the potential for re-use in some circumstances, large volumes of LIB recycling feed are yet to hit the market. Demand however is often based on nameplate plant capacities and vagaries exist with respect to LIB reporting and quantities of production scrap which is unlikely to be deemed as finished product.

3. Battery chemicals

Assessments of future LIB megafactory output show forecast capacity increasing by up to 600% in cell capacity measures. Even conservative predictions are suggesting a requirement for battery chemicals, and in turn mineral concentrates, exceeding by many orders of magnitude current available supply. The profound impact of EV driven demand for tomorrows LIBs is predicted to put significant pressure on supplies of the key mineral ingredients as per the image supplied by Benchmark Minerals below:

Outlook

Analyst consensus shows clear trends highlighting material expansion to LIB demand due to growing electric vehicle and home energy storage sales penetration together with greater consumption of consumer electronics.

The global adoption of LIB continues at a rapid pace and the direct result will be a massive volume increase in production scrap and end-of-life LIBs. An unchanging constant is that LIBs will eventually fail, re-used or otherwise, and scrap will be generated during manufacture.

Governments world-wide are legislating and planning to legislate compulsory lithium battery recycling to improve disposal, inefficient incumbent recycling methods, reduce fire risk and support responsible recovery of their valuable constituents. Creation of an ethical and sustainable supply chain is important for economic, environmental and energy value chain security reasons.

According to Circular Energy Storage, the market for LIB recycling is expected to grow to USD$3.5 billion in 2025.

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