BASF aims to "close the loop" for lithium-ion batteries in North America


German chemicals group BASF is partnering with US battery producer Nanotech Energy to close the material loop for lithium-ion batteries in North America. Under a recently signed partnership agreement, BASF will produce cathode active materials (CAM) from recycled metals at its factory in Battle Creek, Michigan, for use in lithium-ion battery cells produced by Nanotech Energy.

According to a press release, the two firms will also cooperate with recycler American Battery Technology Company (ABTC), which will recycle battery scrap and off-spec material from Nanotech’s production. The battery-grade metals recovered by ABTC, including nickel, cobalt, manganese and lithium, will subsequently be used by BASF and another partner, Canadian firm TODA Advanced Materials Inc., to produce new CAM and precursors. Nanotech will then utilise these materials again in its battery cell production.

"Our partnership with Nanotech, ABTC, and TODA marks an important step for BASF’s global battery recycling business. Now, we are establishing the first closed-loop system in North America. This enables BASF and Nanotech to produce lithium-ion batteries with locally recycled content," commented Daniel Schönfelder, Senior Vice President Battery Base Metals and Recycling at BASF.

"By working together, our four companies can pool their expertise and drive better and more sustainable outcomes for the entire North American electric vehicle and consumer electronics industries," said Curtis Collar, Chief Marketing and Sales Officer at Nanotech Energy. "This is a major milestone among the ongoing advances and growth of the lithium-ion battery market," he added.

BHS Sonthofen to supply recycling plant to BASF’s Schwarzheide site in Germany

In June, BASF celebrated the launch of its battery materials site, which will be home to both production and recycling facilities, in Schwarzheide in the German state of Brandenburg. German plant builder BHS Sonthofen GmbH has been awarded the contract to supply the mechanical processing plant that will turn extract black mass from lithium-ion batteries there. The plant is slated to start operations in 2024 and will have a processing capacity of 15,000 tonnes per year of end-of-life lithium-ion batteries (LIB) and production scrap, according to BHS. The plant’s black mass output contains metals such as nickel, cobalt and lithium, which are to undergo chemical extraction in a subsequent processing step at BASF and can then be utilised in the production of new battery materials.

"The plant in Schwarzheide is being constructed to the highest environmental, health and safety standards. To meet our customer’s stringent requirements, we have developed tailored solutions for our machines and components in close coordination with BASF," commented Daniel Zeiler, vice president in the recycling technology business unit at BHS.

The mechanical process includes crushing, drying and sifting steps. The two-step crushing process enables especially good material yield, while recovering black mass as the main product, according to BHS. Depending on the customer requirements, high recovery rates can be achieved. The entirely gas-tight process, from the crusher all the way to the dryer where the electrolytes are vaporised, also meets BASF’s standards for plant safety and environmental compatibility, according to BHS.

The supplier says this is the third large-scale plant it has delivered for the mechanical reprocessing of lithium batteries to extract black mass. BHS sees significant future potential in this business area: "Battery recycling is a crucial prerequisite for fostering the circular economy and meeting EU quota requirements," Mr Zeiler said. "We are currently witnessing substantial investments in battery recycling on a global scale, and recycling technology is continuously improving," he added.        

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