Primobius has officially opened its 10tpd commercial lithium-ion battery recycling plant in Hilchenbach, Germany.
The recycling system currently established at SMS group's Hilchenbach location is the first plant built by Primobius and enables the company to give live demonstrations of the process and its benefits. So far, it has been used to prepare feasibility data, to assist with process optimization, and will generate product evaluation samples for acceptance and offtake agreements. The commercial Shredding Plant was purposely built to take account of the demand in supply chains for closed loop recycling and domestic supply chain resilience sought by LIB manufacturers, and others, in Europe.
Primobius is awaiting the imminent receipt of a federal emission permit (BImSchG) from German authorities to enable the shredding plant operations at a maximum battery input rate of 10 tonnes per day. Commercial operation is scheduled to begin in the second quarter of 2022.
Potential customers of the disposal services to be offered from Hilchenbach include battery cell manufacturers, the automotive industry, consumer electronics producers, suppliers of stationary energy storage systems, and companies operating in the scrap processing sector.
The location of the plant was chosen deliberately: "Germany has the advantage of having a good infrastructure and being centrally located in Europe, which really suits us from a logistical perspective," is how Prof. Hans Ferkel sums it up. "Having said that, we also anticipate a sharp rise in demand for recycling solutions as the electromobility sector continues to boom and we initially have a head start with production scrap, only then to be deluged with vast quantities of spent batteries."
Manufacturers of lithium-ion batteries are required by law to take back and recycle end-of-life batteries. At present, however, this target is often missed. Historically many of the batteries ended up in landfill sites, or were fed back into inefficient recycling processes based on smelting batteries to recover only a portion of the constituent materials.
Going forward, Primobius is planning the commercial operation of the first Shredder Plant from the Hilchenbach location. This offers customers the opportunity to dispose of their lithium-ion batteries of types NMC (lithium nickel manganese cobalt oxides), NCA (lithium nickel cobalt aluminum oxides), or LCO (lithium cobalt oxides) from consumer electronics or electric vehicles in Hilchenbach in a sustainable way.
In the future any residual charge in the batteries can be removed at two unloading stations integrated in the process. Dismantling work required for larger modules, for example from electric vehicles, will be performed at newly set-up stations before the individual cells are removed and shredded/beneficiated.
The final products resulting from the mechanical comminution and beneficiation in Hilchenbach is a mixed material fraction consisting of copper, aluminum, and plastic parts that have different compositions depending on the type of feedstock used. Following the principles of a circular economy, these materials can be returned straight back to the market. The balance of the active battery material is then ready for sale or refining (Black Mass).
The Black Mass created is an intermediate product of the Shredding Plant and is likely to be sold for until it can be accepted for further processing by a Primobius commercial Refining Plant. It contains, among other things, the valuable materials nickel, cobalt, lithium, and manganese. The hydrometallurgical section of the Refining Plant in Hilchenbach will continue to be operated on a demonstration scale, in order that the process can be further developed with customers.