“We are able to recycle over 80% of lithium-ion battery materials. Our industrial-scale, low-CO2 process allows us to recover the cobalt, manganese and nickel from the battery for reuse in producing new batteries”, Fortum has recently announced on its website.
To achieve a high recycling rate of 80% with a low-CO2, Finnish Fortum uses a hydrometallurgical recycling process. The lithium-ion batteries are first made safe for mechanical treatment, with plastics, aluminium and copper separated and directed to their own recycling processes. And what is left of the battery after these processes are the chemical and mineral components, the ‘black mass’ , and in the facility in Harjavalta the ‘black mass’ can be treated on an industrial scale.
The black mass typically consists of a mixture of lithium, manganese, cobalt and nickel in different ratios. Of these, nickel – and especially cobalt – are the most valuable and most difficult to recover. Most of today’s recycling solutions for EV batteries are not able to recover these valuable minerals.
The hydrometallurgical recycling process involves a chemical precipitation methodology that allows scarce minerals to be recovered and delivered to battery manufacturers for reuse in the production of new batteries. This technology was developed by the Finnish growth company Crisolteq that was acquired by Fortum in January 2020.