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Lithium-ion

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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Toray and LG Chem to form lithium-ion battery separator firm in Hungary

Thu, 11/11/2021 - 10:38 -- Paul Crompton

Korean firms Toray Industries and LG Chem have 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.

The new joint venture will use existing THU facilities to manufacture battery separator film for automotive lithium-ion batteries for sale to LG Group in Europe and the US.

To cater to projected demand growth, Toray and LG Chem have agreed to expand film substrate production facilities and install new coating facilities at the existing THU location. 

Toray has agreed to sell 20% of its stake in LTHS to LG Chem two and a half years after launching the joint venture. LG Chem would then manage joint venture operations. 

LTHS will license from LG Chem and Toray the technologies necessary to produce separators for LG Group lithium-ion batteries. 

The joint venture should also secure stable customers and expand operations by drawing on the LG Group’s business model, which vertically integrates everything from battery materials through battery production. 

The Toray Group will continue to develop, manufacture, and supply battery separator film and coating in Japan and Korea to meet customer needs.

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CATL breaks ground on 50GWh battery plant in China

Thu, 11/11/2021 - 10:26 -- Paul Crompton

Battery giant Contemporary Amperex Technology (CATL) has broken ground on a 50GWh lithium-ion battery production base in Yichun, east China’s Jiangxi Province. 

The first phase of the project involves an investment of 13.5 billion yuan ($2.1 billion) and is a cornerstone of the Yichun city’s plans to develop itself into a sustainable lithium-ion battery hub in Asia.

The plant is part of CATL’s wider plans for increasing its energy storage presence.

On 22 October, CATL signed a strategic cooperation agreement with state-controlled power generation company China Huadian to jointly develop energy storage, new energy, and integrated smart energy projects, reported Argus Media.

The firms had previously agreed to build a 100/200MWh lithium-ion energy storage project in Tengzhou in east China's Shandong province— however, further details have not yet been released.

In October, the firm also signed an agreement with state-owned mining and energy comany China Energy Investment Corporation (China Energy) to strengthen their partnership on new energy storage technology system and application scenarios.

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Amprius adds business development VP to its lithium battery team

Wed, 11/10/2021 - 10:17 -- Paul Crompton

Lithium-ion battery developer Amprius has appointed Ronnie Tao as its vice president of business development.

The US company hopes to capitalise on the increase in commercial opportunities from its silicon nanowire anode battery platform with the addition of Tao’s marketing and business expertise.

Tao has previously worked at Sony Electronics, Daimler-Chrysler, Hewlett-Packard, Amazon, and most recently as VP of marketing and business development at China Ni-MH and lithium battery firm Highpower International.

Kang Sun, Amprius CEO, said: “Ronnie has a proven track record of strategic global business development success across Fortune 500 companies to small businesses.

“His wealth of experience across multiple markets will help us bring our revolutionary battery technology to more industries.”

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BASF and SVOLT partner to advance materials development and battery recycling

Fri, 11/05/2021 - 10:09 -- Paul Crompton

German chemicals firm BASF and lithium-ion battery maker SVOLT— a spin out from China’s vehicle OEM Great Wall Motors— have formed a cradle-to-grave partnership.

The agreement will see both parties, throughout their global operations, work together on cathode active materials (CAM) development, raw materials supply and battery recycling for SVOLT’s battery cells.

The cooperation will also enhance the research and development (R&D) capabilities for both companies in sustainable battery materials and strengthen both parties’ core competitiveness in the Chinese battery market and globally.

Both companies will also assess joint upstream resourcing to strengthen the security of raw material supply.

Dr. Peter Schuhmacher, president, catalysts division at BASF, said the strategic partnership would boost his firm’s position in the battery materials market.

BASF has established a position in the CAM market including a global manufacturing and R&D footprint, and a portfolio of mid- to high-nickel, manganese-rich, cobalt-free CAM.

SVOLT has seven global R&D centres in: China (Wuxi, Baoding, Shanghai and Shenzhen) Japan, Korea and India.

It manufactures cobalt-free batteries, solid-state batteries, with automotive-grade AI intelligent manufacturing, using its high-speed stacking technology.

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Race quickens to develop UK’s lithium-ion manufacturing capacity

Wed, 11/03/2021 - 10:18 -- Paul Crompton

Plans to develop lithium-ion gigafactories in the UK are progressing this week with news from two companies aiming to deliver a combined 95GWh of capacity in the next decade.

Technology firm Envision AESC— a joint venture formed in 2007 between Nissan Motor Company, NEC Corporation and NEC Tokin Corporation— has gained formal planning permission for its manufacturing plant at the International Advanced Manufacturing Park (IAMP) in Sunderland, UK.

The initial 9GWh-capacity plant will form part of a £1billion ($1.4 billion) partnership with Nissan UK and Sunderland City Council to create an electric vehicle hub to support EV production.

Planning decision secures Envision’s investment of £450 million ($619 million), and paves the way for potential future investment of £1.8 billion ($2.4 billion) on the site to generate 35GWh capacity by 2030.

Construction of the new building is due to begin in 2022 to support battery production in 2024.

The company’s existing Sunderland plant has been supplying batteries to Nissan for the Korean firm’s LEAF electric vehicle for the last nine years.

The gigafactory will be 100% powered by renewable energy and supported by an £80 million ($110 million) microgrid being developed by Sunderland City Council.

The plant will also deploy integrated AIoT smart technology to monitor and optimise energy consumption, predict demand and maintenance requirements and utilise battery storage facilities to manage energy supply intermittency. 

Permission came after a public consultation exercise with local stakeholders and residents, which received 80 per cent positive support.

Envision AESC is partnering with Renault Group to develop a 9GWh gigafactory in Douai by 2024, with the aim of reaching 24GWh six-years later. 

West Midland gigafactory

Further plans for the West Midlands Gigafactory have been announced, including costs, capacity and schedules.

The plant in Coventry, is a public private joint venture (JV) between Coventry City Council and Coventry Airport and supported by an alliance of local governments, industrial groups, and universities.

The JV aims to begin production by 2025, before moving to its full planned capacity of 60MWh at an unreleased date.

The gigafactory will require a £2.5 billion ($3.4 billion) cash injection.

The plant will be based next to the UK Battery Industrialisation Centre.

UK’s required battery capacity

According to the Faraday Institution, the UK will need eight gigafactories to meet domestic demand from EV and energy storage system developers.

Joining the race for the UK’s first gigafactory is Britishvolt, which announced last December it was set to build its plant in the North East of England— five months after signing a memorandum of understanding (MoU) with the Welsh government.

The company began preliminary work on its plant in September after acquiring exclusive rights to a site in Blyth, Northumberland.

Read more about the Britishvolt’s plans in the Autumn 2020 edition of BEST magazine HERE

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SK IE Technology readies its EU lithium-ion battery separator plant for production

Thu, 10/21/2021 - 15:21 -- Paul Crompton

Korean materials firm SK IE Innovation has held an opening ceremony for its lithium-ion battery separator plant in Poland, the company's first European production base.

The company, the material business subsidiary of SK Innovation, held the ceremony to mark the start of commercial production after 21 months of construction, which saw mechanical completion in June and test operation in August.

The plant will have an annual production capacity of 340 million/m2.

CEO and president of SK IE Technology, Rho Jae-sok, said: "The operation of the first European plant has positioned the company as the first battery separator producer in Europe. We will take a significant part in revitalizing the global electric vehicle market."

The company’s first plant in Poland is expected to kick off commercial operation in the fourth quarter of this year.

The products will be supplied to global battery companies such as SK On.

SK IE Technology (SKIET) plans to invest a total of KRW2 trillion ($16.7 million) in Silesia Province by 2024 to ensure production capacity of 1,540 million/m2 of lithium-ion battery separators.

A second plant with a 340 million/m2 production capacity is under construction and is scheduled to be ready for commercial operation by 2023. 

Last July ground was broken on third and fourth plants with respective 430 million/m2 capacity. 

It is anticipated that the global production capacity of SKIET encompassing South Korea, China, and Europe will reach a total of 2,730 million/m2.

According to research agency IHS Market, the European battery industry will be expanded by five times from 82GWh this year to about 410GWh in 2026. The demand for separators will likely follow suit.

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Nouveau Monde opens laboratory to drive lithium-ion R&D

Thu, 10/21/2021 - 15:12 -- Paul Crompton

“Green” lithium-ion battery anode material firm Nouveau Monde Graphite is set to add a state-of-the-art laboratory to its existing quality testing facilities.

The new facilities are part of the firm’s goal to supply “high-performing and environmentally responsible” battery materials that can be tailored to a variety of specifications for electric vehicles (EV) and energy storage applications.

The laboratory wil be situated at its premises in Saint-Michel-des-Saints, Canada.

The new facilities include equipment covering a range of technical measurements such as: particle size, tapped density, full coin cell preparation equipment, ICP trace element analysis, coating quality and impurity analysis by SEM-EDX.

Arne Frandsen, chairman of Nouveau Monde, said: “Today’s investment in R&D is tomorrow’s competitive advantage in the marketplace. 

“We continue our confidential and proprietary development efforts with a view to supporting the world’s leading lithium-ion battery makers and intend to continue investing in cutting-edge technology with the support of best-in-class scientists and engineers.”

Recruitment

The company has recruited Mogalahalli V. Venkatashamy Reddy, and Neel Rahem, to its internal technical team that includes specialists in the fields of lithium-ion batteries, carbon materials, bi-polar plates, electrochemistry, and engineered advanced materials.

Reddy is joining as senior professional researcher to advance the company’s product portfolio.

He has worked as a senior researcher at Hydro-Québec’s research institute, the Centre of Excellence in Transportation Electrification and Energy Storage, and at the National University of Singapore’s Department of Materials Science & Engineering, Advanced Batteries Lab and Department of Physics.

Rahem— a chemist specialised in metallurgy, process chemistry and quality programs— is joining the company as laboratory manager.

Prior to working at Nouveau Monde, Rahem looked after laboratory activities for Canadian Royalties, Minerai de Fer Québec, and Glencore.

Image: M.V. Reddy, PhD, senior professional researcher; Martin Brassard, PhD, R&D director; and Neel Rahem, laboratory manager in Nouveau Monde’s new facilities.

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Battery maker Systems Sunlight hires new CEO and president for US subsidiary

Mon, 10/18/2021 - 14:37 -- Paul Crompton

Greek lead-acid and lithium-ion battery maker Systems Sunlight has appointed Todd Sechrist as CEO and president of the Greek firm’s US business. 

Sechrist, who has been a board member for Sunlight for 11 years, has also become a member of the Sunlight Batteries USA’s executive committee.

He joins the company from warehouse material handling firm Pengate Handling Systems, where he held the dual position of president and CEO.

Sechrist— the former president-Americas and COO at lead battery firm Enersys— began the role at the company’s subsidiary Sunlight Batteries USA on 18 October.

Systems Sunlight established the US subsidiary in 2019, and began assembling and distributing lead and lithium batteries for industrial electric vehicles (EVs) from its manufacturing plant in Greensboro, North Carolina, last year.

The firm is in the process of tripling capacity at its Greensboro plant with the addition of advanced machinery and equipment for the assembly of complete lead-acid and lithium-ion batteries by Q1, next year.

Last month, Sunlight announced it would invest an additional €50 million ($59 million) into its US and European plants to increase lead-acid and lithium-ion battery manufacturing.

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American Manganese produces 99.99% pure lithium sulfate from recycled lithium-ion batteries

Thu, 10/14/2021 - 22:30 -- Paul Crompton

American Manganese has successfully produced lithium sulfate (Li2SO4) with 99.99% purity using its lithium-ion battery recycling process. 

The bulk sample of lithium sulfate was manufactured using the Canadian firm’s RecycLiCo™ process and sent to an unnamed international lithium producer for validation.

The process first leached lithium-ion battery cathode scrap and black-mass material with an extraction efficiency of more than 99%. 

The resulting pregnant leach solution was then coprecipitated to produce cathode precursor material (nickel, cobalt, and manganese). 

The remaining solution underwent separate extraction of high purity lithium sulfate while regenerating process chemicals for the closed-loop process. 

Together, the cathode precursor and lithium sulfate product accounts for most of the lithium-ion battery's material value and can be re-integrated into new battery manufacturing. 

Larry Reaugh, president and CEO of American Manganese, said: "To produce green batteries, you need 'green' lithium, and we are thrilled to be engaged with companies that recognise the promise of RecycLiCo. We are confident that our product will align with the lithium-ion battery industry's needs, and which will unlock long-term environmental benefits." 

Throughout American Manganese's R&D and pilot plant project, the company successfully produced other lithium derivatives such as lithium hydroxide and lithium carbonate.

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