The Swiss commodities trader Glencore is teaming up with the Spanish waste company FCC Ámbito and the renewable energy company Iberdrola. The three partner companies aim to provide lithium-ion battery recycling solutions at scale for Spain and Portugal. Through the establishment of a purpose-built facility, the companies want to tackle what they describe as "one of the biggest medium to long-term challenges in the sector", the recycling of lithium-ion batteries (LIB).
The plant they intend to build will be operated by FCC Ámbito. The subsidiary of FCC Servicios Medio Ambiente specialises in the management of industrial and commercial waste, recovery of by-products and decontamination of soil.
The planned recycling facility is to focus on the pre-processing of lithium-ion batteries and scrap from battery production, separating the feed into distinct streams for further downstream refining and recovery of battery metals. Using both "gigafactory" production waste and end-of-life batteries as input materials, the facility is to include second life repurposing as well as true end of life recycling solutions, according to the partner companies. A site for the facility has yet to be selected.
In their work to date, the partners have assessed existing battery recycling capabilities and feed availability in the region in collaboration with the Iberian Energy Storage Research Centre (Centro Ibérico de Investigación en Almacenamiento Energético, CIIAE).
Glencore's global head of recycling, Kunal Sinha, said his company's aim was, together with FCC and Iberdrola, "to leverage the individual strengths of each company to bring circularity to the lithium-ion battery ecosystem across Spain and Portugal". He saw the project also supporting the commodities trader's ambition to grow its recycling business in new markets.
Mr Sinha also highlighted the growing need for battery recycling capacity. "With the increasing sales of electric vehicles comes the requirement for recycling their batteries once they have reached their true end of life," said Mr Sinha. He estimates that the recycling of battery materials will reach around 35,000 tonnes annually in Spain by 2035 including production scrap.
María J. Kaifer, FCC Ámbito's technical director and head of circular economy, said that the collaboration helped the company pursue its strategic growth objectives, such as the development of recycling solutions for materials from the energy transition.
Iberdrola's Álvaro Portellano noted that the project was an expansion of his company's successful collaboration with FCC in the area of wind turbine blade recycling. Mr Portellano heads up Iberdrola's Perseo Venture Builder programme, which promotes the development of industrial companies working in new areas of electrification and in sectors that are challenging to decarbonise.