BASF has announced plans to build a plant for recycling lithium-ion batteries at its Schwarzheide site in southern Brandenburg, Germany. The first part of the plant is scheduled to go into operation in 2024.
BASF plans to recycle 15,000 metric tons of used batteries from electric cars per year in Schwarzheide. Depending on the battery type, different amounts of lithium, nickel, cobalt and manganese can be recovered. From an economic point of view, the recycling of cobalt is particularly interesting. In LCO or lithium cobalt oxide batteries, cobalt can account for up to 90 percent of the cost of the cathode.
"By investing in a black mass battery recycling plant on an industrial scale, we are taking the next step in establishing the entire battery recycling value chain at BASF," said Peter Schuhmacher, head of BASF's Catalysts division. "The closed loop from spent batteries to cathode materials for new batteries reduces dependence on mined raw materials and enables a circular economy."
Before recycling, the batteries are first disassembled and the cells are then shredded. After removing all the foils, the shredded material is sieved and dried several times. This produces the so-called black mass. The cathode materials lithium, nickel, cobalt and manganese are then extracted from this mass by leaching. In the process, the metals are hydrometallurgically dissolved out of the black mass by alkaline solutions.
According to BASF, after the hydrometallurgical refining process, the cathode materials obtained are of "battery quality" and could be used to produce precursors for "cathode prematerials" which in turn would be used to produce cathode materials for new batteries. The plant for the hydrometallurgical processing of the black mass is to be built in the middle of the decade.