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Latest South Korean firm reveals plans for 108,000 tpy European lithium-ion battery cathode plant

Fri, 12/17/2021 - 10:04 -- Paul Crompton

South Korean firm EcoPro BM— the battery material business unit of Ecopro— is set to build a 108,000 tonnes per year lithium-ion cathode factory in Hungary.

The company plans to build a cathode factory in Hungary to supply the electric car battery market, Hungary's foreign minister Péter Szijjártó confirmed via Facebook, according to news outlet Reuters.

The 264 billion forints ($810 million) investment will see the first phase of the plant’s construction finished in the second half of 2024 in the town of Debrecen. 

The second phase will finish a year later.

Szijjártó is reported to have said the Hungarian government was providing an unannounced grant to EcoPro BM.

The grant total is expected to be announced after the European Commission is notified of the deal.

Hungary’s battery expansion

Last month, Korean firms Toray Industries and LG Chem concluded a joint venture agreement to create a lithium-ion battery separator firm in Hungary.

The agreement sets out plans to establish LG Toray Hungary Battery Separator Kft. (LTHS), in which Toray and LG Chem will each hold a 50% interest. 

Under this arrangement, LG Chem will invest $375 million (around ¥43 billion) in Toray Industries Hungary (THU), a 100% subsidiary of Toray engaged in the manufacture and sales of battery separator film.

The deal is due to be finalised next year, subject to fulfilling regulatory requirements.

In the past five years BEST has reported on a number of battery projects in Hungary, which can be viewed here

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JM to stop lithium-ion cathode plans and chief exec steps down as it reveals £1 billion hydrogen plan

Fri, 11/12/2021 - 13:11 -- Paul Crompton

UK technology firm Johnson Matthey has announced a major u-turn in its lithium-ion battery goals and will abandon plans to commercialise its high nickel cathode (eLNO) materials.

Due to inadequate “potential returns”, the company has decided to begin the process of selling “all or parts” of this business with the “ultimate intention of exiting” the market.

The surprise announcement comes as the firm was gearing up to build eLNO plants in the UK, Finland and Poland capable of manufacturing a total of 50kT of the material.

Only last month, the firm was preparing to unveil a race car that used the first full size lithium-ion battery cells featuring eLNO cathode technology.

A Johnson Matthey (JM) press release stated it had been exploring strategic partnerships in recent months, but it had become clear its capital intensity was too high compared with other more established large-scale, low-cost producers. 

The announcement accompanied news that the firm’s chief executive Robert MacLeod was set to retire from his position.

MacLeod said of the eLNO decision: “While the testing of our eLNO battery materials with customers is going well, the marketplace is rapidly evolving with increasing commoditisation and lower returns. We have concluded that we will not achieve the returns necessary to justify further investment. 

“This decision will allow us to accelerate our investment and focus on more attractive growth areas, especially where we have leadership positions such as in hydrogen technologies, circularity and the decarbonisation of the chemicals value chain.”

New chief executive

Johnson Matthey has announced that Liam Condon will be the company’s new chief executive, starting on 1 March 2022.

Condon is a member of the board of management of Bayer AG and president of the Crop Science Division.

MacLeod, who has been the firm’s chief executive for nearly eight years, will stay on to support the transition process until the company’s annual general meeting on 21 July 2022 when he will then retire from JM.

Hydrogen technologies

Just two days before the 11 November announcement, JM confirmed it would invest around £1 billion ($1.3 billion) in the research, development and deployment of clean hydrogen technologies by 2030.

A JM statement read: “JM is making good progress in its other growth areas, such as in hydrogen technologies, circularity and the decarbonisation of the chemicals value chain. 

“These are attractive opportunities which we will now accelerate with greater focus and investment. 

“In addition, in a world that increasingly needs solutions to address the challenges faced by climate change, we will continue to pursue opportunities across other areas that are closely aligned to our core capabilities.”

In July, JM finalised the acquisition of the intellectual property and assets of fellow UK firm and lithium-sulfur pioneer Oxis Energy.

As well as acquiring the assets and intellectual property of Oxis Energy, Johnson Matthey will also take up the lease at its premises in Culham Science Park, Oxford, UK.

A Johnson Matthey spokesperson told BEST at the time: “With moderate additional investment in upgrades, this transaction will significantly accelerate the scale-up of JM’s growing Green Hydrogen business.

“The physical assets of Oxis Energy serve multiple purposes: the physical assets at the Culham Science Park location allows JM’s Green Hydrogen business to develop, test, and produce catalyst coated membranes; battery testing equipment provides additional testing and quality control capability for Battery Materials product development

“The Intellectual property relating to lithium-sulfur battery technologies – a disruptive next generation battery materials technology – presents opportunities for JM’s Battery Materials business to advance its development of future battery materials technologies.”

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Chinese firm plans to build out 160,000tpa of lithium-ion materials capability by 2024

Wed, 10/06/2021 - 09:56 -- Paul Crompton

China-based cathode research and development firm XTC New Energy Materials is planning to invest at least $1.55 billion (CNY10 billion) in a lithium battery materials project in Sichuan province.

The project includes a plant to manufacture 100,000tpa of lithium iron phosphate and 60,000tpa of ternary materials, according to news outlet Reuters.

A letter of intent has been signed by XTC and Yaan Economic and Technological Development Zone in Sichuan, south-west China, according to reports.

The company is principally engaged in the research and development, production and sales of cathode materials for lithium-ion batteries; with its main products being lithium cobalt oxide and nickel-cobalt-manganese ternary materials, including nickel, cobalt and manganese.

The plant is due to be built in stages, with Phase I having 20,000tpa manufacturing capacity for lithium iron phosphate and 20,000tpa for ternary materials.

The lithium iron phosphate component of the project is due to be commissioned in 2023 at an estimated cost of $190 million (CNY1.2 billion), 

The ternary materials component is expected to cost $340 million (CNY2.2 billion), and is scheduled for commissioning in 2024.

The project will also include a 10,000tpa nickel and cobalt smelter for battery recycling. 

XTC, a unit of metals and rare earths producer Xiamen Tungsten, is due to submit a feasibility study to its board and plans to fund the project from bank loans.

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UK-US partnership to scale-up direct lithium-ion battery cathode recycling

Fri, 09/10/2021 - 15:44 -- Paul Crompton

UK and US firms have partnered to improve the sustainability of lithium-ion battery manufacturing by using direct cathode recycling methods. 

UK firm Johnson Matthey and the UK Battery Industrialisation Centre (UKBIC) will partner with US firm OnTo Technology on the project involving direct recycling of lithium-ion battery production scrap.

Johnson Matthey has entered into an agreement to scale up OnTo Technology OnTo’s patented process for the direct recycling of lithium-ion battery scrap in collaboration with UKBIC.

Part funding for the feasibility stage of the project is from the UK Government’s Office for Zero Emission Vehicles (OZEV) in partnership with Innovate UK.

OnTo’s patented Cathode Healing process restores the coating material to be used in making new batteries. 

A Johnson Matthey spokesman told BEST: “The project is aimed at a demonstration unit that can be scaled-up directly to a commercial unit that can meet the need of cell manufacturers.

“The project is focused on cell manufacturing scrap rather than scrap batteries. The demonstration unit will take material from UKBIC’s cell production line and directly from cell manufacturers.

“The objectives of the project is to scale up OnTo’s patented direct cathode recycling technology, which so far has been developed at laboratory scale, to a scale at which the feasibility of a commercial recycling unit can be demonstrated. 

“A successful method of recycling cell scrap with make a significant overall contribution to the manufacturing efficiency of lithium-ion cell manufacturing, increasing the recycled content of new batteries.”

Matthew Dobson, UKBIC’s principal engineer, said: “The recycling of batteries is an important part of developing a sustainable UK value chain and aligns with our objective of enabling a route to Net Zero." 

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China's Lomon Billions to enter lithium-ion battery market with new material plants

Mon, 08/23/2021 - 12:09 -- Paul Crompton

China materials firm Lomon Billions plans to enter the battery industry by building three lithium-ion cathode and anode material production facilities. 

The proposed plants in China will cover lithium iron phosphate and titanium dioxide production. 

A 200,000 tonnes-per-year (t/yr) facility for battery-grade iron phosphate will be built in Qinyang city, in the Henan province, over three phases: two 50,000 t/yr stages and a 100,000 t/yr stage.

Another 200,000 t/yr facility is proposed for Henan's Jiaozuo city to ensure feedstock supplies for the lithium iron phosphate project. 

Lomon Billions is planning to construct a 100,000 t/yr plant for artificial lithium-ion battery anode material in Jiaozuo developed in two phases, with 25,000 t/yr and 75,000 t/yr capacity respectively. 

It will also invest 700mn yuan ($108 million) to expand titanium dioxide production in Jiaozuo by 100,000 t/yr. Its total titanium dioxide capacity is 1 million t/yr. 

Details including the construction schedules and launch dates were undisclosed. 

China upping materials production

Chinese companies, including cobalt refinery Jinchuan Group and diversified new energy firm Ningbo Shanshan, have expanded their battery cathode and anode materials production capacity for power.

Jinchuan is on track to raise its production capacity for nickel-cobalt-manganese (NCM) precursors by 100,000 t/yr in China's Gansu province. 

Shanshan is projected to build a 200,000 t/yr production facility for anode material in China's Sichuan province. 

Domestic power battery manufacturer Contemporary Amperex Technology (CATL) has unveiled plans to increase its lithium-ion battery capacity by 137GWh/yr through five production projects in the next three years.

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Japanese mining firm eyes 10,000 t/m lithium-ion cathode material output

Fri, 07/16/2021 - 09:40 -- Paul Crompton
Sumitomo Metal Mininglogo

Metals firm Sumitomo Metal Mining (SMM) is set to expand its production capacity of lithium-ion cathode materials for electric vehicle batteries. 

Plans include establishing a new plant in the Besshi area (Niihama City, Ehime Prefecture) and expanding production capacity at its Harima Refinery (Harima-cho, Kako-gun, Hyogo Prefecture), both in Japan.

The production capacity of cathode material is planned to be 2,000t/month.

The new plant for nickel-based cathode materials will be opposite SMM’s existing cathode material plant.

Overall capital expenditures for both sites will include: 40 billion yen for the new plant and seven billion yen for the Harima Refinery. 

Construction work is due to be completed in 2025. 

SMM said the production processes will consist of state-of-the-art equipment so the cathode materials can be produced from the start of operation. 

In its 2018 three-year business plan, SMM set a goal of reaching a production capacity of 10,000t/month of cathode material by the end of the 2024. 

This project is adopted by the country’s Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry as a “Program for Promoting Investment in Japan to Strengthen Supply Chains.” 

SMM will use this grant appropriately in our business to promote the development of Japanese industries. 

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Cathode joint development agreement to supply lithium-ion battery market

Mon, 06/21/2021 - 08:22 -- Paul Crompton
Cathode joint development agreement to supply lithium-ion battery market

Battery materials firm Nano One Materials Corp and Johnson Matthey have signed a joint development agreement to co-develop next generation cathode products.

The agreement will focus on developing materials, methods of production and a detailed commercialisation study for pre-pilot, pilot and scaled up manufacturing. 

Johnson Matthey will use Nano One's patented one-pot process and coated nanocrystal technology in its eLNO® portfolio of nickel-rich advanced cathode materials.

The one-pot process is designed to form a cathode material known as ‘coated single crystal’, which enables the materials to be made directly from metal powders and lithium carbonate. 

The agreement is the culmination of successful technical reviews and preliminary evaluations of both Nano One's high-nickel cathode materials and IP conducted over the past year.

The deal represents a significant milestone in the business relationship between both companies.

Christian Gunther, chief executive, battery materials at Johnson Matthey said the firms’ technology has the potential advantages in terms of product performance, sustainability and manufacturing cost.

Johnson Matthey aims to make 10,000 million tonnes per annum of its eLNO at a plant scheduled to open next year in Konin, Poland.

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US researchers open door for magnesium batteries to disrupt the ESS market

Thu, 12/03/2020 - 09:36 -- Paul Crompton

Researchers from the University of Houston and the Toyota Research Institute of North America (TRINA) have developed a new cathode and electrolyte that could help magnesium batteries compete with lithium-ion.

The teams have demonstrated a magnesium battery capable of operating at room temperature and delivering a power density comparable to that offered by lithium-ion batteries.

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Umicore secures EIB funding to develop European lithium-ion battery cathode plant

Mon, 06/15/2020 - 10:09 -- Paul Crompton

Materials technology firm Umicore has finalised a €125 million ($141 million) loan agreement with the European Investment Bank (EIB) as it looks to develop a lithium-ion battery cathode plant in Europe.

The proceeds of the loan, which has a maturity of eight years, will finance part of the Belgium firm’s investment in the cathode materials plant in Nysa. 

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Engineering upgrades helps boost lithium-ion cathode recycling plant capacity by 150%

Thu, 06/11/2020 - 12:05 -- Paul Crompton

Metals firm American Manganese has more than doubled the capacity of its pilot lithium-ion battery cathode recycling plant in the US through engineering upgrades. 

The Canadian company raised capacity from 64 kg/day to 160 kg/day by adding thermal control of exothermic reactions that enable the plant to operate at higher pulp density. 

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