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[Conference Takeaway] China International Power Battery Recycling Forum
Jul 22, 2022 16:04CST
The "new energy metal" supply in China is limited, and overseas mining companies have strong pricing power, which will drag on the healthy development of China's new energy vehicle (NEV) industry in the long run.

SHANGHAI, Jul 22 (SMM) - The 7th China International New Energy Conference 2022, hosted by the SMM (Shanghai Metals Market), has come to a successful end last week. Over 2,000 industry experts and guests participated in the conference, and people provided their perspectives on a variety of topics regarding the most recent trends in the new energy industry, including new energy batteries and their materials, power battery recycling, new energy equipment, and technologies as well as international new energy industry chain.

Speech topic: Overview and prospects of China's lithium battery recycling market

Speaker: Zhu Jian, battery recycling chief analyst at SMM

The "new energy metal" supply in China is limited, and overseas mining companies have strong pricing power, which will drag on the healthy development of China's new energy vehicle (NEV) industry in the long run.

Taking cobalt ore as an example, merely 8% of the cobalt ore supply in China comes from domestic mines, while the rest is supplemented by the imports. As a "new energy metal", cobalt supply is quite tight, and the pricing power is basically in the hands of overseas mining companies, which will drag on the healthy development of China's new energy vehicle industry in the long run.

Developing urban mines, securing strategic resources, grasping pricing power, reducing raw material costs, and finally creating a closed business loop

Although China’s mineral resources are slightly insufficient compared with foreign countries, China has advantages in terms of chemical smelting, lithium battery materials, lithium ion batteries, and new energy vehicles, hence it is important for China to develop urban mines. It is estimated that by 2025, the proportion of cobalt recovered from urban mines will be as high as 20% in China.

With the announcement of the third batch of whitelist companies, the lithium battery recycling policies in China are deepening.

In order to cultivate and guide the standardised development of the industry, the Ministry of Industry and Information Technology (MIIT) issued the first batch of 5 whitelist companies, most of whom are companies with integrated industry chain with focus on recycling.

The second batch of whitelist companies is aimed at further regulating and guiding the industry, which distinguishes repurposing and recycling for the first time, and engages auto makers, battery and battery material makers, as well as lithium battery recycling companies.

With the release of the third batch of whitelist companies, the number of legitimate companies in the lithium battery recycling industry has expanded to 47, which include not only battery and battery material makers and lithium battery recycling companies, but also new players from other industries.

Speech topic: Lithium-ion battery recycling market structure and business model

Speaker: Xu Peng, metals and mining analyst of Bloomberg New Energy Finance

Xu Peng believes that China will become a major market for battery repurposing in the future. By 2035, 276 GWh of batteries will be repurposed worldwide, with lithium iron phosphate (LFP) battery occupying the most extensive applications.

Speech topic: Potential digging and cost control in the recycling process of lithium battery scrap

Speaker: Wang Sanyou, Vice President of Hydrometallurgy Branch of China National Resources Recycling Association

At present, the most common processes for recovering lithium from lithium batteries include leaching - neutralisation - impurity removal - extraction - separation - concentration and enrichment of lithium - precipitation, carbonization separation - impurity removal - purification- thermal desorption, as well as drying - crushing so as to get lithium carbonate, and waste water treatment to recover residual lithium and by-product anhydrous sodium sulphate.

The current production process still has some shortcomings, such as low production efficiency, low lithium recovery rate, large amount of waste water, waste residue, sodium sulphate, as well as high consumption of auxiliary materials. Among them, the low recovery rate of lithium is an important factor affecting the profits of enterprises. In the current process, the main causes for the low recovery rate of lithium are the loss of lithium in the process of leaching waste residue, as well as loss of lithium with sodium sulphate and in waste water. These three types of lithium loss are closely related to technical processes. Therefore, the production technology process is the core factor affecting the lithium recovery rate, followed by the raw material composition.

In response to the above-mentioned issues, it is put forward three key problems that need to be solved in the process of lithium recovery and the corresponding technical solutions. In general, by introducing advanced technology, upgrading and improving the production process, the production efficiency can be improved. Adopting precise control technology and tapping the potential of system resources can effectively solve the problems existing in the production process.

Speech topic: Addressing the chaos of battery recycling - industrial forces create social value

Speaker: Zhu Zhemin, General Manager of Operation of Quannan County Ruilong Technology Co., Ltd.

The necessity of addressing the chaos of battery recycling: preventing lithium batteries from becoming hazardous waste

The impact of lithium batteries becoming hazardous waste on the entire industry chain include rising regulatory costs, computing costs, storage costs, and channel costs. Higher costs will be transmitted to the entire new energy industry chain by pushing up the cost of batteries, increasing the prices of electric vehicles, and reducing the competitiveness of the industry. This will also have a negative impact on China’s energy independence and carbon peaking and carbon neutrality strategies.

Suggestions: Change the industrial logic by relying on industrial innovation and commercial innovation; promote the transformation of traders in order to optimise the processing and inspection efficiency, and provide distribution centres with solid support.

Industry initiatives:

Hydrometallurgy enterprises: Improve the procurement standards of black mass and reduce the purchase prices of low-quality black mass.

Regulatory authorities: Focus on cracking down on large-scale non-compliant hoarding of batteries and illegal battery crushing activities.

Quotation institutions: Pilot the pricing mechanism under which prices are discounted based on the level of impurities and try to solve the problem of mixed powder.

Speech topic: Lithium battery scrap recycling and lithium extraction system technology and equipment

Speaker: Xu Yanguo, General Manager of Hebei Yanming Chemical Equipment Co., Ltd.

According to China New Energy Vehicle Industry Development Plan 2021-2035, the country's new energy vehicle sales in 2025 and 2030 will reach more than 7.5 million units and 10 million units respectively. With the rapid growth of the new energy vehicle industry, the market for retired lithium batteries is huge, which will boost the battery recycling industry. It is estimated that the retired lithium battery market will be worth 20 billion yuan by 2022, over 100 billion yuan by 2030, and more than 200 billion yuan by 2035, a staggering leap from 13 billion yuan in 2020.

When lithium is recovered from NMC battery scrap by pyrometallurgy method, lithium needs to be converted into lithium bicarbonate. Precipitated lithium carbonate that is recovered from NMC battery scrap through hydrometallurgy as well as LFP battery scrap cannot meet the standards of battery-grade lithium carbonate. In the production process, it is necessary to use carbonisation and pyrolysis recrystallisation processes to recover or purify lithium.

Speech topic: Safe and economical resource treatment technology of lithium-ion batteries

Speaker: Liu Chen, General Manager of the Environment and Recycling Technology Division of BHS-Sonthofen GmbH

Entire recycling/treatment process of lithium-ion batteries

The entire process of recycling of lithium-ion batteries includes preparation, pre-treatment, treatment and refining. The preparatory work includes collection and transportation, and pre-sorting of battery types, active/radioactive materials, etc.; the pre-treatment includes the dismantling of high-strength supports, and the inactivation of hazardous substances (such as discharge); battery disposal is the most important stage, which includes the disassembly (crushing) of the battery, vacuum drying + waste gas treatment, and sorting operations; the refining process includes extraction and recovery.

Comparison of lithium-ion battery recycling and treatment technologies

There are three processes that are widely used: pyrometallurgy, pyrolysis and underwater mechanical recovery, which must meet not only the CO2 regulations under the EU emissions rights trading and a possible global emissions trading system, but also the minimum requirements for recovery of cobalt, lithium and nickel in the future (the requirements will be raised from 2030 or 2035) and must be economically viable.

Speech topic: Obstacles to power battery recycling channels and solutions

Speaker: Gao Weiqiao, Deputy General Manager of Zhejiang Huayou Circulation Technology Co., Ltd.

China lacks cobalt, nickel and lithium resources and mainly relies on imports. It is estimated that the demand for nickel as cathode active materials for lithium batteries stood at about 197,000 mt in 2021, and will rise to about 705,000 mt in 2025 and 1.77 million mt in 2030.

The global reserves of cobalt ore resources are about 7.1 million mt in metal content, of which Congo (DRC) preserves 3.6 million mt in metal content or 51% of the world’s total, ranking first in the world.

The reserves of cobalt ore invested by Chinese-funded enterprises are about 2.53 million mt in metal content, accounting for about 51% of the reserves disclosed by major global mining companies.

The prices of metals used in batteries have risen significantly since 2021, led by battery-grade lithium carbonate and refined cobalt.

The prices of battery-grade lithium carbonate surged from nearly 50,000 yuan/mt in early 2021 to 460,000 yuan/mt on February 24, 2022. The prices of refined cobalt soared from 270,000 yuan/mt to 552,500 yuan/mt.

Speech topic: Intelligent dismantling technology will create a green lithium battery recycling ecosystem

Speaker: Ming Yuebin, technical director of Batrui Technology Co., Ltd.

China’s NEV ownership has exceeded 10 million units.

Data released by the Ministry of Public Security on July 6 showed that China’s motor vehicle ownership had reached 406 million units by the end of June 2022, including 10.01 million units of NEVs.

The ownership of pure electric vehicles stood at 8.1 million units, accounting for 80.9% of the total ownership of new energy vehicles.

Power battery installed capacity

From January to May 2022, China's power battery installed capacity totalled 831 GWh, an increase of 100.8% year-on-year. Among them, the installed capacity of NMC batteries was 34 GWh, accounting for 40.9% of the total installed capacity and up 40.5% year-on-year. The installed capacity of lithium iron phosphate batteries was 49 GWh, accounting for 58.9% of the total and an increase of 186.1% year-on-year.

Recycling of retired power batteries

According to incomplete statistics, as of the end of December 2021, nearly 130,000 mt of power batteries had been recovered by more than 70 repurposing and recycling enterprises across China.

By the end of 2021, nearly two thirds of the retired batteries recovered and disposed of by more than 70 repurposing and recycling enterprises across the country were used to extract valuable elements.

In 2021, the lithium, cobalt, nickel and manganese extracted from retired power batteries accounted for 4-7% of the resources required for power battery production in that year.

The demand for metal recycling is becoming increasingly stronger due to the rapid growth in the demand for metals such as cobalt, nickel, and lithium, insufficient domestic mineral resources, and the impact of carbon emissions in the manufacturing process.

Speech topic: Use new recycling method to create high value

Speaker: Wu Zhangjie, founder and general manager of Sichuan Changhong Green Environmental Protection Technology Co., Ltd.

The new energy lithium battery industry is booming

The installed capacity of lithium batteries will continue to grow rapidly from 2021 to 2025. The installed capacity of lithium batteries is expected to reach 739 GWh by 2025, including 100 GWh of consumer batteries, 524 GWh of power batteries, and 115 GWh of energy storage batteries. From 2020 to 2025, the CAGR of installed capacity of consumer batteries, power batteries and energy storage batteries is estimated to be 10.4%, 51.9%, and 54.6% respectively.

The recycling industry is growing rapidly

It is estimated that the battery recycling volume will reach 83 GWh by 2022, and 195 GWh by 2025, with a CAGR of 33.3% from 2020 to 2025, 522 GWh by 2030, with a CAGR of 21.8% from 2025 to 2030, 1,318 GWh by 2035, with a CAGR of 20.4% from 2030 to 2035. The CAGR from 2020 to 2035 is expected to be 25%.

China attaches great importance to the recycling of retired power batteries

In the face of enormous amount of retired power batteries, China has frequently introduced relevant policies for the recycling of power batteries. In October 2020, it was proposed in the New Energy Vehicle Industry Development Plan 2021-2035 to improve the power battery recycling and repurposing system, and to encourage the joint construction and use of recycling channels. China also mentioned in its 2021 Government Work Report to accelerate the construction of power battery recycling system.

Speech topic: Practice of green, low-carbon and sustainable recycling of lithium batteries

Speaker: Chen Jiangdong from Guangdong Brunp Recycling Technology Co., Ltd.

Status quo of carbon work in China and suggestions

At present, China lacks methodology that is suitable for its own, and establishes greenhouse gas (GHG) inventory with reference to foreign methodologies. China has not formulated powerful standards to compete with foreign countries based on its own situation. In addition, in terms of databases, there is no unified calculation standard in various industries in China. In terms of software, although China has carbon calculation software eFootprint, it still lacks a lot of important data when compared with Gabi software. Therefore, it is imperative to find a suitable methodology and standard as soon as possible, and to collect data from various industries so as to form a unified calculation standard.

Speech topic: Car makers’ practice of power battery life cycle management

Speaker: Zhang Shuchang, head of NIO's Battery Recycling Business Division

Building a battery recycling system with BaaS: Separating battery from vehicles is a necessary condition for large-scale and intensive management of batteries. A network of power swap facilities is an effective measure for battery management, while intelligent battery operation monitoring technology is the core.


For queries, please contact Michael Jiang at michaeljiang@smm.cn

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