SK On Plans to Build Lithium Recycling Plants to Reduce Carbon Emissions

Published on: 01 August 2022
by KnowESG
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SK Group, South Korea's second-largest company, has announced plans to build lithium recycling plants to cut carbon emissions.

Transportation and Environment (T&E), a European environmental organisation, recently analysed carbon emissions from the production of various battery types.

The manufacturing process for lithium phosphate and iron (LFP) batteries, the primary product of Chinese battery manufacturers, produced 78 kg of carbon dioxide per kilowatt-hour.

The manufacture of nickel, cobalt, and manganese (NCM) batteries produced a similar amount of emissions, 77 kg per kWh. LG Energy Solutions, Samsung SDI, and SK On are the three largest manufacturers of NCM batteries in South Korea.

The procedure for all-solid-state batteries, which uses a solid electrolyte instead of a liquid one, emitted 58 kg/kWh, which is 24 per cent less than that for NCM batteries due to the higher energy density of all-solid-state batteries.

T&E determined the energy density of LFP battery packs to be 174 Wh per kilogramme, NCM battery packs to be 250 Wh per kilogramme, and all-solid-state battery packs to be 400 Wh per kilogramme. All-solid-state batteries utilise 35 per cent more lithium than lithium-ion batteries but use less carbon-emitting graphite and cobalt.

If raw materials are mined in a sustainable manner, such as extracting lithium through geothermal power generation and utilising waste heat as an energy source, carbon emissions from all-solid-state batteries can be reduced by as much as 39 per cent, to 47 kg/kWh.

Recently, makers of batteries have increased their use of eco-friendly raw materials and are eager to cut carbon emissions.

One example is Compass Mineral of the United States, which struck a business partnership with LG Energy Solution. The company employs renewable energy to directly extract lithium from salt lakes using the DLE technique. T&E determined that DLE may cut water use and has a greater lithium extraction rate than the typical brine evaporation method.

SK On is operating a pilot waste battery recycling plant that recovers lithium hydroxide. The company explains that lithium hydroxide production reduces carbon emissions by 74% compared to mining and 41% compared to salt lakes.

SK On stated in an environmental, social, and governance (ESG) report that it would invest in lithium recycling factories this year. The plants are scheduled to begin operations in the United States and Europe by 2025.

Source: Business Korea

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