Mercedes edges closer to battery recycling with $30m Neometals order

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By Doug Bright

Neometals has landed a second multi-million-dollar order from automotive goliath Mercedes Benz to complete the two-stage build of a lithium battery recycling pilot plant using proprietary technology developed by the ASX-listed company.

The $30.7m order will allow Neometals’ joint venture (JV) company Primobius to build a hydrometallurgical refinery known as a “hub” for Mercedes. It will process intermediate feed material generated from a battery-shredding plant that was the subject of Mercedes’ first purchase order with Primobius back in August last year.

Mercedes is moving to closed-loop EV battery recycling to reduce resource consumption.
Mercedes is moving to closed-loop EV battery recycling to reduce resource consumption.

Primobius is a 50:50 JV between Neometals and mega German plant builder SMS group and was put together to extract lucrative minerals such as lithium, nickel and cobalt from electric vehicle (EV) batteries that have reached their end of life, or from batteries that were scrapped on the production line for quality reasons.

The Primobius deal with Mercedes will see the automotive giant enter the lithium battery recycling space for the first time ahead of a planned move to eventually go electric only.

‘We are proud to partner with Mercedes and to lead the closed-loop recycling of lithium batteries.’

Neometals managing director Chris Reed

The recycling plant will be built in the German town of Kuppenheim.

The order for the fabrication, installation and commissioning of the innovative plant continues a growing relationship between Primobius and Mercedes that may eventually lead to further joint exploitation of the recycling technology.

Neometals managing director Chris Reed said: “We are proud to partner with Mercedes and to lead the closed-loop recycling of lithium batteries by supplying plant and offering technology licences so OEMs can retain their battery materials from scrap and end-of-life batteries. Primobius looks forward to working with Mercedes to scale up the technology and provide an industrial scale recycling solution to meet their future needs.”

The company says supply certainty, low operating costs and low carbon footprint offered by its technologies will be key value drivers for original equipment manufacturers as they look to scale up EV production.

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Under the arrangement with Mercedes, Primobius is responsible for the engineering, supply, installation and commissioning of a fully-integrated, closed-loop pilot-scale recycling plant comprising a feeder “spoke” facility, to be followed by the processing “hub”. Together, they will comprise Mercedes’ recycling pilot plant.

The “spoke” facility is currently undergoing fabrication and commissioning is slated for the current quarter. Once completed, the “spoke” feeder plant, which shreds expired batteries into their component chemicals and inert casing materials, is expected to have an annual capacity of 2500 tonnes per year.

The recovered materials will then be recycled via the hydrometallurgical “hub” into the production of a planned 50,000 battery modules to be installed into new Mercedes EVs.

Neometals says the spoke design is product-ready and can be supplied to existing licensees and new customers, while the planned Mercedes hub is scheduled to be product-ready this quarter.

The combined Mercedes orders also represent a major milestone for Primobius, as they constitute its first commercial recycling plant supply agreement to a global EV manufacturer. It is also the JV’s first significant revenue collection.

Early last month, Primobius revealed it had produced industry-leading quality in its trial production of battery-grade nickel sulphate from recycled lithium-ion batteries.

It says the purity of its nickel sulphate produced from recycled nickel-manganese-cobalt lithium-ion batteries exceeds specifications from Chinese cathode producers for the same product from their recycling of EV batteries.

Management says the results confirm Primobius’ ability to produce high-quality battery-grade nickel sulphate and validates the product from its 2019 pilot trials in Canada.

The company believes its patented technology has significant implications for sustainability through the recycling of expired batteries, which have largely unchanged components that can be recovered and turned into new batteries. Its view is supported by a recent independent life-cycle assessment into Primobius’ lithium-ion battery recycling technology, which was undertaken by environmental impact mitigation company, Minviro.

The study focused on the JV’s production of key battery pre-cursor materials, including lithium fluoride, nickel sulphide hexahydrate and cobalt sulphate heptahydrate.

In comparisons with current mainstream EV supply chains that begin with primary mined raw materials from nickel, cobalt and lithium resources, the study showed the JV’s hydrometallurgical refining process to recycle the key components of lithium-ion batteries can potentially achieve an 85 per cent lower overall carbon footprint.

The JV says a successful commissioning and ramp-up to steady-state operations will significantly de-risk the next level of scale, which is planned to be up to 21,000 tonnes per year.

Once Mercedes’ pilot recycling plant is up and running smoothly and has proven itself, Primobius says it will focus on engineering an industrial-scale solution for the iconic motoring brand.

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Source: Thanks smh.com