Fortum opens large-scale battery recycling plant in Finland

Fortum has completed its lithium-ion battery recycling factory in Harjavalta, Finland, on time. Announced in 2021, Fortum says this is the largest recycling plant in Europe in terms of capacity and also the first commercial-scale facility for hydrometallurgical recycling.

Fortum already operated a pilot plant at the Harjavalta site and has now finished the expansion to an industrial-scale facility as planned. The company now expects the new plant to “greatly ease the European battery manufacturers’ rising demand for sustainable battery materials, helping to reduce Europe’s dependence on imported critical battery raw materials”.

In March 2021, Fortum’s hydrometallurgical battery recycling operations were shortlisted for the EU’s Innovation Fund for low-carbon technologies worth one billion euros. Fortum has also received IPCEI (Important Project of Common European Interest) grants from Business Finland to establish its recycling plants and processes.

Hydrometallurgy is a technique within extractive metallurgy, the obtaining of metals from their ores, and involves using aqueous solutions to recover metals. In Fortum’s case, the company combines mechanical and low-carbon hydrometallurgical technologies to recycle batteries sustainably. The lithium-ion batteries are first disassembled and mechanically processed at Fortum’s facility in Ikaalinen. The resulting black mass, which contains critical metals, is then collected and transported to Harjavalta for hydrometallurgical processing.

Tero Holländer, Head of Business Line, Batteries, Fortum Battery Recycling, added, “Thanks to our cutting-edge hydrometallurgical technology, 95% of the valuable and critical metals from the battery’s black mass can be recovered and returned to the cycle for the production of new lithium-ion battery chemicals.”

Fortum recycles end-of-life lithium-ion batteries and battery production waste to produce secondary metals for new lithium-ion batteries on an industrial scale. The plant already returns nickel and cobalt sulphates, and Fortum said the products meet customer specifications. While not named here, Fortum is known to work with BASF and Nornickel.

Moreover, the company expects the demand for recycled battery materials to increase “dramatically over the next five to ten years” due to new EU sustainable batteries regulation. “The manufacturers need to prepare for the legislative changes now, as the first minimum levels of recovery for materials such as cobalt, nickel and lithium will come into force in 2026,” said Holländer.

He added that limiting the source of the recycled content only to end-of-life batteries and battery manufacturing scrap will “simply not be enough for the need of the manufacturing industries. This is why we must harness all waste streams containing critical metals.

Here the company claims to now provide a closed loop for battery recycling along the value chain in Europe. Fortum reportedly launched pre-treatment services in Kirchardt, Germany, for electric vehicle batteries in March. This is now combined with the mechanical process in Ikaalinen and hydrometallurgical metal recovery in Harjavalta. Fortum also works with industrial side streams with another novel hydrometallurgical process that produces a nickel intermediate product in Tornio.


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