Updated: Oct 26, 2021
Australian based company Neometals Ltd (ASX: NMT; FSE: 9R9) is leading the European and global charge towards a circular economy with its joint venture with German engineering giant SMS Group.
The JV is named “Primobius” and is developing and commercialising an efficient, environmentally friendly recycling solution for end-of-life and scrap lithium-ion-batteries (LiB) cells. The process has been developed to use finite resources more efficiently and create a battery/EV circular economy based on an ethical supply chain with reduced carbon footprint.
The technology for the battery recycling has been 5 years in development and has many features providing it with a competitive advantage over other battery recycling techniques.
The 2 stage process involves firstly shredding and sorting scrap or end-of-life batteries using salt mechanics. At this plastics, steel casings, copper and aluminium foils are recovered for re-use.
Following is a refining process consisting of leaching and solvent extraction.
The benefit of a two stage process is they can be situated independently wherever the value-add is greatest. The final outputs of the process are depicted below.
On 26 October 2021 the company announced the showcase demonstration plant was fully commissioned. The plant is located in Germany at Hilchenbach. Once full assessment and process evaluation has occurred by end of November 2021, a finance decision will determine progression towards completion of a first commercial 50tpd plant. There is scope for a 200,000-tonne plant, where stage one can be situated close to end-of-life batteries deposits (such as OEMs and car makers) and the refining plant can be situated close to renewable energy sources, key reagents, and customers.
demonstration feeder plant
A video explaining Primobius technology can be viewed below.
The tailwinds for sustainable recycling are incredibly strong. European Li-ion cell production capacity is expected to increase tenfold by 2025, with an expected 30 Gigafactory’s likely to be in operation by 2030.
The European Commission mandates electric batteries should be more sustainable throughout their lifetime to drive EU green deal and 2050 climate neutrality targets. For this reason, they have legislated by 2024 only rechargeable EV batteries for which a carbon footprint declaration has been obtained can be sold. In addition, the current mandated 45% collection rate for EV batteries is also set to rise to 100% by 2030.
All collected batteries must be recycled and elevated levels of recovery must be achieved for cobalt, lithium, nickel, and lead. The framework has been designed to ensure the only the greenest, best performing, and safest batteries are sold in the EU.
Europe needs its own battery recycling industry, and the European Battery Alliance initiated by the EU Commission should make it happen, says the IRFI Centre for Energy and Climate. Currently EV batteries are not recycled sustainably anywhere at scale due the infancy of the EV market and most EV batteries are not at end of life. This will change rapidly with between 15-20% of new car sales in Europe expected to be EV by 2030. Demand for lithium alone will soar with some projections looking at European demand at 39 tonnes in 2030, compared to 2 tonnes in 2018
Neometals is also exploring global growth and strategies for its recycling technology. In June 2021, the company signed a MoU with Canadian company Stelco Inc. The agreement provides a framework for establishing a LiB recycling JV in North America. Under the proposed arrangement Primobius would supply the dedicated recycling facility to process battery cells arising from scrap and end of life vehicles in North America.
In March 2021 Primobius also signed a MoU with Japanese conglomerate Itochu Corporation. The MoU will provide a framework towards battery recycling, under which Primobius would contribute its lithium-ion material processing capabilities. The arrangement involves firstly taking advantage of Itochu’s strong footprint along the entire battery value chain and secondly Itochu supplying its stationary energy storage batteries to Primobius’ Demonstration Plant.
The company has delivered spectacularly for shareholders in the past 12 months with an increase of 403% since 15 October 2020.
The June 2021 EMEA Investor Presentation can be viewed below.