Hydrovolt JV begins battery recycling in Norway
Hydrovolt, the battery recycling joint-venture between battery maker Northvolt and aluminium group Hydro, has commenced commercial recycling operations in Fredrikstad, southern Norway. Hydrovolt is Europe’s largest electric vehicle battery recycling plant, capable of processing approximately 12,000tpy of battery packs (around 25,000 EV batteries).
Integrated with a novel process design, Hydrovolt can recover and isolate some 95% of the materials in a battery including, plastics, copper, aluminium and black mass (a compound containing nickel, manganese, cobalt and lithium). Several novel concepts designed to maximise recovery of materials are found within the plant, including a dust collection system which ensures valuable material typically lost through mechanical recycling steps is captured.
Hydrovolt is exploring an expansion of recycling capacity within Europe, with a long-term target to recycle approximately 70,000tpy of battery packs by 2025 and 300,000tpy of battery packs by 2030, equivalent to approximately 150,000 EV batteries in 2025 and 500,000 in 2030.
Norway has been leading the world in adoption of electric vehicles for some years
Peter Qvarfordt, CEO of Hydrovolt, commented: “Hydrovolt represents a milestone on Norway’s trailblazing journey towards widespread electric transportation. Norway has been leading the world in adoption of electric vehicles for some years, but what has been missing is recycling capacity to ensure a sustainable solution for those batteries as they reach end-of-life. Today, Hydrovolt is scaled to handle the entire volume of end-of-life batteries in Norway, but we’re now looking towards expanding to ensure we’re prepared for the higher flows of batteries we know are coming.”
Rio Tinto starts tellurium production at Kennecott
Rio Tinto has started producing tellurium at its Kennecott copper operation in Utah, becoming one of only two US producers of the critical mineral used in advanced thin film photovoltaic solar panels, the group announced in May.
The tellurium will be refined in North America by 5N Plus, a global producer of speciality semiconductors and performance materials, under a commercial agreement between 5N Plus and Rio Tinto. The refined tellurium will primarily be supplied to First Solar, the only American company among the world’s ten largest solar manufacturers, under an existing supply contract between 5N Plus and First Solar. 5N Plus will also use the tellurium to manufacture ultra-high purity semiconductor materials at its facility in St. George, Utah, to serve the security and medical imaging markets.
Approximately 20tpy of tellurium will be produced through a new US$2.9M circuit built at the Kennecott refinery. This valuable material is recovered from by-product streams generated during the copper refining process, reducing the amount of waste that needs to be treated and discarded as mine tailings.
Tellurium is listed as a critical mineral by the U.S. Government due to its importance to the economy and energy security. First Solar Chief Manufacturing Operations Officer Mike Koralewski said: “Rio Tinto’s decision to invest in tellurium is a win for responsibly-produced, American solar. We’re thrilled that tellurium from Kennecott will play a role in powering our country’s transition to a sustainable energy future.”
Rio Tinto Copper Chief Operating Officer Clayton Walker said: “We are proud to deliver a new domestic supply of tellurium to support the manufacturing of solar panels and other critical equipment here in the United States.
Approximately 90% of the world’s tellurium resource is contained in copper ore and no other metal has more critical mineral by-products than copper.
The Kennecott team is constantly looking for ways to extract new critical minerals to meet emerging demand for the clean energy transition.”
Rio Tinto becomes first scandium producer in North America
Rio Tinto Fer et Titane (RTFT) has produced a first batch of high purity scandium oxide at its commercial scale demonstration plant in Sorel-Tracy, the group announced on 6 May, becoming the first North American producer of scandium oxide. Scandium is notably used in solid oxide fuel cells and in aluminium alloys.
The RTFT team has completed commissioning activities, and is now focusing on production ramp up to bring the plant to its nameplate capacity of 3tpy scandium oxide, representing approximately 20% of the global market. The plant uses an innovative process developed by RTFT to extract high purity scandium oxide from the waste streams of titanium dioxide production, without the need for any additional mining.
The company is also considering near-term expansion options to increase production capacity in line with market demand.
Scandium oxide is used to improve the performance of solid oxide fuel cells, which are used as a power source for data centres and hospitals, as well as in niche products such as lasers and lighting for stadiums or studios. It is also used to produce high-performance aluminium-scandium alloys for the aerospace, defence and 3D printing industries.